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Sunday, August 8, 1999 Published at 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK


Pinochet could face UK trial

Anti-Pinochet protesters in Spain call for the General to be tried there

General Augusto Pinochet could face a UK trial if Spain drops its request to extradite the former Chilean dictator.

The pinochet File

The UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirmed that it had received a formal complaint against the General from human rights group Amnesty International, and would be seeking to establish if there were sufficient grounds to bring a case against him.

But the prospect of the general facing UK prosecution has sparked criticism.

Gerald Howarth, Conservative MP for Aldershot, said: "If this were to happen it would be an outrage.

"The British Government now seems to be ready to usurp the authority of the Chilean people."

Spain wavering on extradition

There are also outstanding requests for the general's extradition from France and Switzerland.

[ image: General Pincohet is under house arrest in the UK]
General Pincohet is under house arrest in the UK
Speculation is growing that Spain may be about to drop its bid to extradite the General to face allegations of torture and human rights abuses, following government talks with Chilean foreign minister Juan Gabriel Valdes.

The allegations relate to General Pinochet's period in office, between 1973 and 1990.

A spokeswoman for the CPS said a UK police investigation was "an option" if Spain abandoned its action.

General Pinochet - now a Chilean senator - has been held in the UK since his arrest last October following the extradition request from Spain.

Human rights abuse claims

The CPS spokeswoman said: "At the moment, this is hypothetical.

"We are still moving towards extradition proceedings in September.

"There are other countries who are interested in Senator Pinochet, so it would depend on what action they wanted to take."

France and Switzerland have put their extradition requests on hold while the bid to have the General sent to Spain goes through.

However, the bids could be revived if Spain decides not to go ahead with extradition.

Spain denies deal

The spokeswoman said the UN Convention against torture meant General Pinochet could face charges in the UK for alleged crimes committed abroad.

Spain made its extradition request based on allegations that Spanish citizens suffered human rights abuses in Chile at the command of General Pinochet.

The UK Government has previously said it would allow the General to return to Chile in the event of Spain dropping its action.

Last week, the Spanish Government denied it was about to abandon extradition proceedings.

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