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The BBC's James Reynolds in Santiago
"The appeal court in Santiago wil now hold a hearing"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 6 December, 2000, 06:10 GMT
Army demands say in Pinochet case
Anti-Pinochet demonstration
Pinochet's opponents applauded the detention order
Military commanders in Chile have demanded a say in political discussions following a judge's decision to arrest the former military ruler General Augusto Pinochet.

President Ricardo Lagos met the heads of the armed forces on Tuesday, talks which Defence Minister Mario Fernandez described as frank and constructive.

Ricardo Lagos
Lagos: General's fate in the hands of the judiciary
The military asked Mr Lagos to convene the National Security Council, a body giving the armed forces a political say during moments of national crisis.

The president will decide later on Wednesday whether to grant their request, but so far, he has maintained that General Pinochet's fate is a matter for the courts.

The detention order against General Pinochet was issued on Friday by Judge Juan Guzman, who is investigating General Pinochet's involvement in more than 70 abductions and murders carried out by a military squad known as the "Caravan of Death" in 1973.

But on Tuesday, the appeals court in Santiago suspended the order while it rules on the legality of the charges against him.

The general's defence team argues that he should first be allowed to undergo medical tests to see if he is fit to stand trial.

Military concerned

The heads of the armed forces believe the moves to prosecute the general threaten peace and tranquility in Chile.

El Mercurio newspaper quoted Mr Lagos as saying there were "concerns" about the general's arrest but that his fate lay in the hands of the judiciary and the appeals procedure.

Pinochet supporter
The general's supporters say he is too ill to stand trial

According to Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza, a request for a session of the National Security Council by army commander-in-chief General Ricardo Izurieta was not likely to be met.

The BBC's James Reynolds in Santiago says General Izurieta's comments demonstrate 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.

'Unfair' decisions

Human rights activists have celebrated the indictment against General Pinochet, and prosecution lawyers say they will fight any attempt to overturn the decision.

The decision to charge General Pinochet took his lawyers by surprise. They believed the judge would not make a move until the results of the medical tests were known.

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 the UK 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:

04 Dec 00 | Americas
Pinochet increasingly isolated
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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