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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 December, 2004, 19:32 GMT
Pinochet appeal decision delayed
General Augusto Pinochet
Augusto Pinochet took power in a 1973 military coup
Chile's Supreme Court has delayed an appeal ruling to decide if Gen Augusto Pinochet is fit to stand trial.

The announcement came after doctors at a military hospital in Santiago released Gen Pinochet, who has been recovering from a suspected stroke.

On Monday, a lower court upheld charges of murder and kidnapping against Gen Pinochet, and ordered him to remain under house arrest.

However, his lawyers say the 89-year-old is not well enough to stand trial.

Gen Pinochet's lawyers and family say that over the weekend Gen Pinochet was read the Catholic last rites - a blessing given to those close to death.

But his daughter now says her father, who also suffers from diabetes and arthritis, is feeling much better.

Murder charge

On Wednesday, the five justices heard three hours of arguments on Gen Pinochet's fitness to face charges of murder and kidnapping during his rule.

Defence lawyer Pablo Rodriguez reportedly insisted the former dictator's health made him unfit to stand trial and urged the court "to avoid this situation having a fatal outcome".

But prosecution lawyer Hector Salazar called Gen Pinochet's admission to hospital on Saturday "a theatrical move that should have no effect on the court's ruling", reported AP news agency.

October 1998: Police in UK arrest Pinochet on Spanish warrant; long legal battle over fitness for trial
March 2000: Deemed unfit for trial, returns home. Days later effort begins to try him in Chile
August 2000: Supreme Court strips his immunity. Later declared fit to stand trial
July 2001: Charges suspended and later dropped on grounds of health
May 2004: Court strips Pinochet of immunity from prosecution over fresh charges
Dec 2004: Chilean judge indicts Pinochet

On Wednesday, doctors at the Santiago Army Hospital released Gen Pinochet and allowed him to continue treatment at his home.

On Tuesday, investigating Judge Juan Guzman told the BBC ill-health would no longer prevent the general from answering charges relating to his dictatorship.

He said a TV interview by Gen Pinochet had undermined claims he is suffering from serious dementia.

The general has fended off dozens of attempts to make him stand trial on charges involving human rights abuses during his 1973-1990 military rule.

He now faces charges relating to the murder of one Chilean and the disappearance of nine others.

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