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Wednesday, March 24, 1999 Published at 16:34 GMT


'A lesson for the world'

The decision follows months of protests outside Parliament

The grey afternoon spent in Parliament Square by hundreds of protesters calling for General Augusto Pinochet to be extradited came after months spent in vigils outside the House of Lords.

The protesters have been a constant feature of the Westminster landscape over the drab winter months.

As Big Ben struck two on Wednesday afternoon the crowd gathered to hear the second ruling by the highest court in the country began chanting "justice, justice, we want justice".

The pinochet File
For many there was a feeling of deja vu, as they recalled how they had waited for the initial ruling months ago, which was eventually dismissed.

[ image: Many protesters had relatives who disappeared]
Many protesters had relatives who disappeared
Minutes later the crowd, young and old from across the world, fell silent as people strained to hear the Law Lords ruling on their radios.

Each ruling was read out like a football score: "3-1 to us, 4-1, 5-1, 6-1".

On 5-1 the crowd erupted into cheers and more chanting as champagne sprayed in to the air.

Alex Pierola, 26, told BBC News Online: "It's a great feeling but now we have to find where the bodies of all the disappeared are and he is the only one who knows where they are.

"My family is from Chile and four of my uncles disappeared in the 1970s and were put in concentration camps but, thank God, they are still alive and are in exile.

"I was born in Chile and came to England when I was five. I remember going to see my uncle in Los Tres Alamos concentration camp, I still remember it.

[ image: The original ruling was set aside]
The original ruling was set aside
"For two years he had to sleep in a steel bed with no mattress and electrodes on the bed."

Edward Flores, who fled Chile to live in Sweden 25 years ago, was among those who had made the journey to come to London to hear the verdict.

"I'm very very happy," he said, draping a Chilean flag over his shoulders.

Anna Maria Suarez, from Venezuela, who was in London for the ruling, said: "This is a lesson for the world that there can be no immunity."

Ricardo Acuna, 38, who lives in London, said: "I hope this will bring to justice all those who conspired against the ordinary people.

"We have been living in exile, no-one is going to compensate us, we've wasted our lives in exile."

[ image: The protest was held in Parliament Square]
The protest was held in Parliament Square
Raquel Diaz, 26, who has many Chilean friends said: "I'm very happy, this means justice is working."

Gloria Quiroz, who lives in London, has been protesting outside Parliament since October.

Her husband Wilfredo disappeared in 1973 when he was taken from their bed at 1.30 in the morning as they slept.

The day before she had planted a small wooden cross for husband among 4,000 crosses in a make-shift garden of remembrance in the square where she now stood to hear the Law Lords' ruling.

Mrs Quiroz said: "It is a great day - it's my life, it's my children's life.

"We are going to have justice. I hope Pinochet will be brought to trial.

"You pay everything in this world, not the other."

Angela Burnett, 38, a doctor who works with asylum seekers and other human rights cases said: "Today is a very important decision, not only for the Chilean people who now have the opportunity to acknowledge and face up to what happened in their country.

[ image:
"An important decision"
"It also is an important warning for other people in the world who carry out atrocities like Pinochet.

"I think this is absolutely the right decision. This makes me feel proud to be British."

Mauricio Canales, 33, lives in London but who is originally from Chile, said: "I feel so happy for all the people who died in Chile and all the relatives of the disappeared.

"This is a very important day for humanity, this case is about human beings.

"This is a very important day for justice, justice for all people who live in every country."

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