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The BBC's James Reynolds, in Santiago
"Not enough to end legal action"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 23:02 GMT
Pinochet 'fit enough' for trial
Judge Juan Guzman arriving at the military hospital
Judge Guzman: Must decide whether to question General Pinochet
Medical tests carried out on the former Chilean military ruler, General Augusto Pinochet, are reported to have concluded that he suffers from slight to moderate dementia, but that he is alert enough to go on trial.

A doctor on the prosecution's side who performed the examinations, Luis Fornazzari, said General Pinochet had lost some of his co-ordination and speech, but that his memory was intact, and that he was perfectly able to undergo interrogation.

The judge in charge of the Pinochet case in Chile is studying the opinions of the six doctors who examined the former military ruler last week to determine whether he is fit to stand trial. A formal report is expected to be issued this week.

If Judge Guzman establishes that General Pinochet is in a satisfactory mental condition, he will then interrogate the former leader on 23 January about alleged human rights abuses committed in the 1970s.

Under Chilean law, a person can only escape prosecution if they are found to be senile or insane.

'Vascular dementia'

But reports from Chile suggest the judge's decision will not be clear cut.

General Pinochet
General Pinochet: 'No psychological problems'
According to leaks of the preliminary findings reported in the Chilean media, the six doctors who carried out the tests have agreed that General Pinochet suffers from "slight to moderate subcortical vascular dementia".

This condition is said to produce physical rather than mental problems.

No problems were said to be registered in the psychological tests conducted on the former head of state.

Dr Fornazzari said: "General Pinochet remembers some things and has co-ordination and speech problems. He has some analysis capacity. He has attention deficit and is easily irritated."

The specialist told El Mercurio newspaper that the tests conducted in London were insufficient to establish dementia or senility.

More legal battles

General Pinochet was assessed by three neurologists, two psychiatrists and a psychologist on his ability to reason, remember and talk.

Judge Guzman must decide in the first instance whether or not he interrogates General Pinochet about the disappearances and deaths of more than 70 political prisoners in the notorious "Caravan of Death" that toured Chile shortly after the 1973 military coup in which he took power.

He can decide to drop the case on medical grounds at a later stage if he considers the general to be unfit.

Whatever his decision, correspondents say it is likely to be subject to a court appeal.

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See also:

13 Jan 01 | Americas
Doctors conclude Pinochet medical
10 Jan 01 | Americas
How the doctors test Pinochet
07 Jan 01 | Americas
Pinochet defies court order
01 Dec 00 | Americas
Pinochet charged with kidnapping
10 Jan 01 | Americas
Finding Chile's disappeared
08 Jan 01 | Americas
Chile hears about military's victims
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