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The BBC's Jane Peel
"The anti-Pinochet camp face an uphill task"
 real 28k

Daniel Schweimler reports from Madrid
"Most people in Spain now accept that the case against Pinochet is over"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 12 January, 2000, 18:10 GMT
Pinochet faces trial in Chile

Madrid protest Protesters in Madrid rally against Pinochet


Chilean President Eduardo Frei has praised the stance of his government over the detention of former dictator Augusto Pinochet, and again insisted that he should face trial only in Chile.

The pinochet File
Commenting on Britain's announcement that it intended to release the general, President Frei said: "It is the courts of this country who must try Pinochet. The judges have the independence to carry out their tasks."

In London, the Chilean ambassador said the general could be stripped of his immunity from prosecution if he is returned to Chile.

But the ambassador, Pablo Cabrera, stressed that the government would leave any such decision to the Chilean courts.

Medical tests

British Home Secretary Jack Straw said in the House of Commons that, on the basis of medical tests, he was of the opinion that the 84-year old General Pinochet should be allowed to go home and not be extradited to Spain to face charges of torture.

Human rights groups have demanded to see the medical evidence on which the decision was based.

"Amnesty International is alarmed that Jack Straw has indicated he will make his decision on extradition on the basis of medical evidence that has not been made available to all parties," said the human rights group in a statement.

Mr Straw has allowed a week for interested parties to make representations to him before his decision to release General Pinochet becomes final.

Absolute respect

Spain has said it will not contest the British decision.


Santiago Pinochet A Pinochet supporter in Santiago hears the news from London
"The Spanish Government has maintained from the first moment an attitude of absolute respect for judicial decisions taken in relation to this case," the Spanish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"It is its intention also to respect the decisions of the British Government."

The Spanish Government, despite worries about strains in relations with Chile, has repeatedly pledged to let justice run its course in the case.

But Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has privately made it clear he has no desire to see General Pinochet brought to trial in a Spanish courtroom.

Spanish judge Baltasar Gurzon, who ordered his extradition to Spain in October 1998 to face human rights abuse charges, is however expected to appeal against Mr Straw's ruling.

Extradition demands

France, for its part, said it would only respect the British decision if poor health truly made the ex-dictator unable to stand trial.

It has issued two international arrest warrants against General Pinochet and sought his extradition in relation to five cases involving the torture and disappearance of French citizens during his 17-year rule in Chile.

Belgium and Switzerland also have outstanding extradition requests.

Horror

Chilean opponents of General Pinochet are furious about the ruling.


Pinochet timeline
16 Oct 1998: Pinochet arrested in London on Spanish extradition warrant
25 Nov 1998: Law Lords rule that Pinochet does not have immunity
24 Mar 1999: Law Lords uphold earlier ruling, but reduce the number of charges
6 Oct 1999: Pinochet, fighting extradition, is excused from court appearance because of two minor strokes
5 Jan 2000: Pinochet undergoes series of medical tests

"We are reacting with horror," said Carlos Reyes, a spokesman for Chileans living in exile.

"I feel choked that this criminal is going to escape justice, especially because we have in Chile people still suffering from his reign of terror, who are older than him and in even worse health than he is."

General Pinochet's supporters in Chile reacted with surprise to the decision, saying they were happy - but would not believe he was returning until he boarded a plane to Santiago.

The general's son, Marco Antonio Pinochet, told Sky News: "We are a little sceptical about what is going to happen.

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General Pinochet
Should he be allowed to go home to Chile?
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See also:
12 Jan 00 |  Americas
Chile treads carefully around ruling
12 Jan 00 |  Europe
Spanish legal team stunned
12 Jan 00 |  Media reports
Full text of President Frei's address
11 Jan 00 |  UK
Anger over Pinochet decision
12 Jan 00 |  UK
Home Office statement in full
05 Jan 00 |  UK
Too ill to face the law?

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