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Wednesday, March 24, 1999 Published at 17:30 GMT


World

Celebrations greet Pinochet decision

Supporters and critics cheered the Law Lords' verdict

Both opponents and supporters of General Pinochet have been celebrating victory, following the British Law Lords decision that he can face extradition proceedings.

The pinochet File
The BBC Correspondent in Chile, James Reynolds said the decision, which amounted to "a partial victory for everyone", was eventually met with jubilation from all quarters.

The country came to a standstill to follow the television transmissions from London.

Cheers, fireworks and champagne


James Reynolds in Santiago says both sides are claiming victory in the ruling
The General's supporters, who had gathered at the headquarters of the Pinochet Foundation to watch the judgement on a large screen, greeted the decision with cheers and fireworks.

They are happy with the stipulation that the former dictator should only have to answer charges stemming from crimes allegedly committed after 1988, towards the end of his 1973-1990 rule.

"The ruling is justice done. It was what we Chileans were expecting," one supporter said.

Others danced in the streets, popped champagne and waved flags, saying the decision was a victory for Pinochet, who has a lifetime senate seat because of his status as a former president.

Hugs and kisses


[ image: Pinochet's opponents in London celebrated]
Pinochet's opponents in London celebrated
At the headquarters of an association of relatives of dissidents who disappeared during Pinochet's regime,a mostly female audience exchanged hugs and kisses, many weeping, as it became clear Pinochet would not immediatey return.

The crowd leapt up in celebration when the ruling was announced.

Even though Law Lords ruled that most of the charges should be dropped, anti-Pinochet activists gathered outside the House of Lords in London were also jubilant.

"For years we've waited for this man to face the music and at last this has happened," said Ana-Maria Suarez.


Anti-General Pinochet protester celebrates: "Human rights have succeeded."
The Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman shouted, in both Spanish and English: "victory for humanity, victory for humanity" in response to the verdicts.

Long wait

It has been a long wait in Pinochet's home nation for the second ruling from the Law Lords. Nobody was willing to predict which way they would rule, and both sides held separate vigils in the hours before the announcement.

The Chilean Government is determined to maintain public order. In advance of the ruling it asked Chileans to react to the Law Lords' verdict with moderation.

President Eduardo Frei has held extensive meetings with his advisors to discuss his administration's response to the verdict, and he is expected to address the nation once he has considered the announcement from London.



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