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Monday, January 18, 1999 Published at 16:20 GMT

World: Americas

The campaign to clear Pinochet

Pinochet supporters in Santiago burn pictures of Queen Elizabeth II

South America Correspondent James Reynolds reports from Santiago on the campaign being waged by General Pinochet's supporters for the ex-military leader's release.

Public protests in Chile have died down since General Pinochet's arrest, but his supporters have still been working to secure the former military leader's return to Chile.

The pinochet File
His supporters make up a powerful minority in the country and a campaign has begun to raise money for the General's legal fees. The Pinochet Foundation has released an album of military music which it is hoping supporters will buy.

Those sympathetic to Augusto Pinochet are also being asked to give money to a specially opened bank account and to add a fixed donation to their monthly telephone bills.

"We haven't taken a moment's break since he was arrested," says Marlene Schweitzer of the Pinochet Foundation.

"Every day we make our presence felt on the streets, in the newspapers, and on television. We're now fairly optimistic that there'll be a solution to this problem, to this drama that we've been living."

General Pinochet's supporters have also organised events designed to keep their campaign in the public eye. In the week before the House of Lords began their new hearing, 200 Pinochet supporters gathered in a park in the centre of Santiago.

[ image: Pinochet's supporters have also mounted a campaign in England.]
Pinochet's supporters have also mounted a campaign in England.
There they unveiled a giant greeting card which they will deliver to General Pinochet in Britain. They hope that the card will be recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest ever card of its kind.

In addition to events designed to attract publicity, General Pinochet's supporters have also begun a campaign to try to win over public opinion in Chile and abroad.

The prominent Chilean journalist, Hermogenes Perez de Arce, has just written a book in which he maintains that Augusto Pinochet is innocent of all the charges that Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon has raised against him.

Innocent on all counts

The author now wants the book to be published in Europe, where he feels Augusto Pinochet has not been treated fairly:

"Even the General's own legal team in Britain agreed with the prosecution that Augusto Pinochet is guilty of serious crimes," he says, "I hope my book will show General Pinochet's lawyers that, in my opinion, he is innocent of the accusations made against him."

Several hundred Pinochet supporters have now travelled to London for what they hope will be the final stage in the legal proceedings against the man they call their liberator.

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