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Thursday, 3 February, 2000, 12:50 GMT
Chilean lawsuit against Pinochet

Demonstration against Pinochet Ex-prisoners say Pinochet was "cruel and inhuman"


A Chilean judge has accepted a new lawsuit against former dictator Augusto Pinochet on torture charges.

The case is similar to the one that originated Pinochet's arrest in London, in October 1998.

A group of 643 ex-political prisoners in Chile filed the torture suit with judge Juan Guzman in Santiago last week.


Demonstration pro pinochet Pinochet supporters at a demonstration in Santiago
The text of the lawsuit says the general was responsible for "cruel, inhuman and degrading crimes" committed during his government.

The former political prisoners claim to have suffered physical and mental abuse in Chilean prisons during Pinochet's 17-year rule (1973-1990).

They argue those crimes cannot be covered by any amnesty laws.

'Genocide and terrorism'

The Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon, who requested Pinochet's arrest and extradition to Spain, wanted the general to face charges of "genocide, torture and terrorism".

But Britain agreed only to process Spain's request for torture cases that occurred in the last 15 months of Pinochet's government, when the United Nations Convention against Torture was already in place.

The British Home Office decided to order medical tests on Pinochet.


Mask against pinochet A demonstrator wears mask to remember the victims

In January, the UK Home Secretary, Jack Straw, said that the general was too fragile to endure a trial.

More lawsuits

Judge Juan Guzman is already handling other 58 lawsuits against Pinochet in Chile.

He says that if Pinochet returns to Chile, he will order new medical tests to determine if the general really cannot stand trial.

But many human rights advocates say a trial in Chile is unlikely because Pinochet has parliamentary immunity as a life senator.

It is thought that around 3,000 people were killed during Pinochet's regime.

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See also:
30 Jan 00 |  UK
Chilean plane waits for Pinochet
27 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Belgium justifies Pinochet challenge
26 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Pinochet medical test challenge
26 Jan 00 |  Europe
Why Belgium cares about Pinochet

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