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Thursday, 5 July, 2001, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
House arrest for Parguay's ex-army chief
General Lino Oviedo
General Oviedo has been in prison since last June
Former Paraguayan general Lino Oviedo is to be placed under house arrest in Brazil while the authorities consider his request for refugee status.

General Oviedo is wanted in Paraguay for allegedly masterminding the assassination of the vice-president, Luis Maria Argana, in March 1999.

The general denies the charge.

Luis Maria Argana
Mr Argana was murdered in March 1999
He was arrested on 11 June last year at Foz de Iguazu, Brazil, which borders Paraguay.

Since then he has been in prison in the Brazilian capital Brasilia while an extradition request was being processed. That request has now been suspended while a decision is taken about the general's status, the Brazilian Supreme Court says.

"Today he will be transferred to his cousin's home," his lawyer Walter Costa Pinto told Reuters.

The former general will not be allowed to leave Brasilia.

The BBC correspondent in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion says the decision to place him under house arrest has angered many in Paraguay, who believe the Brazilians are softening their position towards the general.

If he is given refugee status in Brazil, he will be allowed to stay there freely.

Highs and lows

Lino Oviedo is a notorious strongman in Paraguay's power struggles.

As army commander in 1996 he led a failed coup attempt against President Juan Carlos Wasmosy. The general was jailed and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

General Lino Oviedo
The former army chief is claiming political asylum
But he was released when Raul Cubas, a political ally, was elected president in 1998.

However, when Luis Maria Argana was shot down the following year on a busy street in Asuncion, it sparked months of political tension which led to the downfall of Mr Cubas. He is now exiled in Brazil.

General Oviedo was arrested by presidential guards after Mr Argana was murdered, but he escaped several days later.

Last October an army major and two other men were sentenced to long prison terms for their role in the murder.

Major General Reinaldo Servin and Constantino Rodas were sentenced to 25 years in prison, while Pablo Vera Esteche was given a 20-year sentence.

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See also:

12 Jun 00 | Americas
Paraguay ex-army chief arrested
20 May 00 | Americas
Arrests follow failed Paraguay coup
02 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Paraguay
19 May 00 | Americas
Paraguay uprising foiled
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