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The BBC's Stephen Cviic in Santiago
"In order to escape trial he has to be declared senile or insane"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 23:27 GMT
Pinochet undergoes medical tests
Judge Juan Guzman arrives at the military hospital
Judge Guzman is set to question the general next week
The former military ruler of Chile, General Augusto Pinochet, has undergone a first day of medical tests to determine whether he is fit to stand trial in connection with human rights abuses.

General Pinochet arrives at the hospital
General Pinochet is to undergo neurological and psychological tests
On Tuesday, his lawyers dropped their opposition to the tests, and the 85-year-old general returned to the capital, Santiago, from his countryside retreat.

General Pinochet is also scheduled to be interrogated by investigating Judge Juan Guzman next Monday, but one of his lawyers said his attendance depended on the outcome of medical tests.

Analysts say the general's team finally acceded to the medical examinations to circumvent his possible arrest for contempt of court following his earlier refusal to attend scheduled tests on Sunday.

'Reasonable period'

"The judge set a substantially more reasonable period of four days to conduct these analyses on a person aged 85 who is quite ill," said his spokesman, retired General Guillermo Garin.

Anti-Pinochet protesters
Anti-Pinochet demonstrators gathered outside the hospital
General Pinochet is reportedly suffering from memory loss, heart problems and diabetes.

A team of six court-appointed doctors will conduct neurological and psychological tests.

On his first day General Pinochet had blood and urine samples taken in Santiago's military hospital, as well as a brain scan in a private clinic.

Under Chilean law, if the tests uncover any signs of dementia or insanity, he would not have to go on trial.

'Government pressure'

Judge Guzman, who is investigating more than 200 lawsuits against General Pinochet concerning human rights violations during his time in office, visited the military hospital, but did not meet the former ruler.

In an interview with the BBC, Judge Guzman said the government and other groups had put pressure on him to accept physical tests for General Pinochet, rather than just mental ones.

Pinochet supporters
The general's supporters say tests will prove he is unfit for trial
He said that is also what the general's lawyers wanted, though Chilean law "does not mention physical exams".

"What it says is that those over 70 must undergo mental tests," he added.

Judge Guzman also described pressures for him not to allow independent observers as "an insult to a judge anywhere in the world".

More than 3,000 people, including 1,198 political prisoners listed as missing, are believed to have died during General Pinochet's 17 years in power.

Grim findings

On Sunday, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos presented the results of an inquiry into the whereabouts of the missing.

The bodies of 150 people, he said, had been thrown into the sea, lakes or rivers and would never be recovered.

Another 20 bodies are believed to lie in a mass grave somewhere in Santiago.

The inquiry's findings came as a disappointment to many Chileans who lost relatives and friends during the Pinochet era.

Human rights activists have criticised the Chilean armed forces for failing to provide more information on the fate of those still unaccounted for.

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See also:

10 Jan 01 | Americas
How the doctors test Pinochet
08 Jan 01 | Americas
Chile hears about military's victims
07 Jan 01 | Americas
Pinochet defies court order
26 Dec 00 | Americas
Court delays Pinochet questioning
01 Dec 00 | Americas
Pinochet charged with kidnapping
02 Nov 00 | Americas
Court orders more tests for Pinochet
10 Jan 01 | Americas
Finding Chile's disappeared
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