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The BBC's James Reynolds, in Santiago
"Most Chileans have got used to the long running drama of the Pinochet case"
 real 56k

Sunday, 3 December, 2000, 13:32 GMT
Army to call for Pinochet talks
General Pinochet
Pinochet: Accused of ordering a series of kidnappings
The head of the Chilean army says he is considering whether to convene the National Security Council to discuss a judge's order for the arrest of former military leader General Augusto Pinochet.

Defence Minister Mariano Fernandez has already ruled out a meeting of the civilian-military body, saying there was no justification for it - but the armed forces have the right to do so without government backing.

Army chief, General Ricardo Izurieta
General Izurieta has held a series of emergency meetings
The BBC's James Reynolds in Santiago says General Ricardo Izurieta's announcement demonstrates the armed forces' displeasure with the move to arrest General Pinochet, but that it also shows a willingness to stay within the rule of law.

The general has been charged with involvement in over 70 abductions and murders carried out by a military squad known as the "Caravan of Death", after he came to power in a 1973 coup.

General Pinochet's lawyers have lodged an appeal against his arrest.

Next steps
4/12: General Pinochet will be officially placed under house arrest
5/12: President Lagos returns to Chile
6 or 7/12: Appeals court ruling expected
They have described as unfair the decision by Judge Juan Guzman to charge General Pinochet before the outcome of medical tests that might show he is unfit for trial.

But human rights activists have celebrated the indictment, and prosecution lawyers say they will fight any attempt to overturn the decision.

What next?

Court sources say that General Pinochet will be formally notified of the charges against him on Monday and then be officially placed under house arrest, probably at his countryside home in Bucalemu, south of the capital.

At the same time, the general's defence team will continue efforts their efforts to try to overturn his arrest and indictment.

Lawyers seeking General Pinochet's prosecution say they will also go to court to make sure this does not happen.

A decision from the appeals court is expected within 48 hours.

Waiting game

Since General Pinochet's indictment on Friday, the heads of the armed forces have held two lengthy meetings to discuss how to respond to Judge Guzman's decision.

Security guard outside Pinochet's residence in Bucalemu
General Pinochet is heavily protected at his countryside residence
Army chief General Izurieta also held two sets of talks with Chile's Vice-President, Jose Miguel Insulza, and Defence Minister Mario Fernandez.

If General Izurieta decides to call a meeting of the National Security Council, President Ricardo Lagos would be facing his first meeting of the body since taking office in March.

Correspondents believe the army chief will wait until Mr Lagos returns from a state visit to Mexico before making a decision.

Speaking from Mexico, Mr Lagos said the decision to arrest General Pinochet was proof that Chile's courts are free and independent.

Our Santiago correspondent says the government is doing its best to show that it will not be affected by any pressure exerted by the armed forces.

Medical tests

Anti-Pinochet demonstrations in Santiago
Anti-Pinochet campaigners celebrated his indictment
The decision to charge General Pinochet took his lawyers by surprise. They believed the judge would not make a move until the 85-year-old general underwent medical tests to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.

Judge Guzman says if medical tests show that the general is fit, he will then interrogate him.

Under Chilean statute, legal action has to end only if the accused is shown to be either insane or suffering from dementia.

In October 1998, police arrested General Pinochet in Britain at the request of a Spanish judge who wanted to try him on charges of torture.

The general spent 503 days in custody before being allowed to return home after Britain ruled he was too old and sick to undergo trial in Spain.

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See also:

02 Nov 00 | Americas
Court orders more tests for Pinochet
01 Dec 00 | Americas
Analysis: The Pinochet factor
01 Dec 00 | Americas
Pinochet charged with kidnapping
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