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Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 17:31 GMT
How the doctors test Pinochet
Pinochet supporters
Pinochet's supporters say he is too ill to stand trial
By James Reynolds in Santiago

General Pinochet's medical tests are being carried out by six doctors selected by investigating judge Juan Guzman.

It is thought that the doctors will conduct the tests in three stages. First of all, the general will undergo a session with a psychiatrist. This is expected to last about three hours, evaluating his behaviour, his level of alertness, and his language skills.

If General Pinochet is found to be either "insane" or "suffering from dementia", all legal action against him must end

General Pinochet will then face a series of neurological exams. These are designed to work out whether he has suffered brain damage as a result of a number of small strokes he is reported to have suffered over the past two years.

Finally, the general will take part in a number of psychological tests commonly used to test for diseases such as Alzheimer's. The tests may include memorising objects, counting down from 20 to one, reading a short story and then talking about it, and copying simple drawings.

Two-way mirror

The medical examination is being carried out at Santiago's military hospital. It is believed that an examining room with a two-way mirror has been made available so that the tests can be observed from another room by the judge and by non-participating doctors.

Pinochet in wheelchair
Pinochet's opponents claim he faked illness to avoid extradition from Britain

Once the tests are concluded, the final report on the general's mental health will be presented to Judge Guzman.

According to Chilean law, if General Pinochet is found to be either "insane" or "suffering from dementia", all legal action against him must end. Anything less and legal action will be allowed to continue.

But General Pinochet's legal team argues that the threshold of insanity or dementia is too severe. They say that their client should not be put on trial even if he is not found to be insane or demented.

Meanwhile, lawyers seeking the former dictator's prosecution say they are concerned that the former military leader may choose to fake insanity or dementia in order to escape trial.

They argue that's exactly what he did last year in order to avoid extradition from Britain to Spain to face torture charges.

They also say they are worried that the results of the neurological exams may be doctored in order to exaggerate the general's brain damage.

However, Judge Guzman has assured them that the tests will be carried out without interference or bias.

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10 Jan 01 | Americas
Pinochet in hospital for tests
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