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The BBC's Linda Duffin
"General should stand trial or be declared insane"
 real 28k

The BBC's James Reynolds in Santiago
"Many Chileans think Pinochet may succeed in avoiding both a trial and a declaration of insanity"
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Sunday, 5 March, 2000, 07:25 GMT
Stark choice for Pinochet
Demonstrations in Santiago have been emotional but largely peaceful
Chile's Foreign Minister, Juan Gabriel Valdes, has said that General Augusto Pinochet must either be prepared to face trial in Chile or else be declared insane.

Mr Valdes made his comments the day after the former dictator returned to Chile to a welcome the minister described as "a disgrace", and which has raised tensions between the armed forces and the government.

The pinochet File
Speaking in an interview with the BBC, the foreign minister said General Pinochet could choose to remain in public life and risk prosecution, or declare himself unfit for trial.

Mr Valdez said if the General was declared mentally unfit, he would have to retire from the Chilean Senate.

The BBC's James Reynolds in Santiago says the blunt nature of his words is a reflection of the anger the government feels about the manner of the General's return.

General Pinochet was in his wheelchair for only a few moments after he was helped from the plane that transported him from Britain, and then proceeded to salute and acknowledge his cheering supporters by waving his walking stick in the air.

Pinochet in wheelchair
General Pinochet faces new medical tests
UK Home Secretary Jack Straw decided that he would not be extradited to Spain to face torture charges because he was not fit to stand trial.

But opponents say that, from what they have seen since his arrival, he appears to be in good health.

Lawmaker Isabel Allende, daughter of ex-president Salvador Allende, who died during the 1973 assault on the presidential palace La Moneda said: "It appears that Pinochet is in a perfectly good condition physically and mentally to be prosecuted."

New tests

A Chilean judge considering more than 60 civil lawsuits against Augusto Pinochet has said he intends to pursue a prosecution.

It appears that Pinochet is in a perfectly good condition physically and mentally to be prosecuted

Isabel Allende
"I believe the conditions are in place for the development of a good trial in our country and from next Monday I will dedicate myself exclusively to this end," said Judge Juan Guzman.

New medical tests will have to be carried out according to Chilean law, which states that anyone over 70 who is facing legal action must undergo a medical examination.

Those found to be insane or suffering from dementia are then exempt from standing trial.

The BBC's James Reynolds says the situation is more complicated than this, however, as the general still enjoys parliamentary immunity as a life senator.

The process to lift this could take months, with no guarantee of success.

Angry protests

Since General Pinochet's return, thousands of supporters and protestors have marched through the streets of Santiago, and there have been clashes with police.

Some protesters threw stones at the army headquarters and painted graffiti on walls calling for the general to be jailed.

Anti-Pinochet demo in Santiago
Opponents of Pinochet demand he is jailed
One demonstration culminated at the presidential palace, which was a target during the military coup which originally took General Pinochet to power in 1973.

Outside the building, relatives of those who disappeared during the general's regime held a candlelit vigil.

They said they wanted to make sure that Chile never forgets the human rights abuses committed under his rule.

The 84-year old retired general is staying at his residence on the outskirts of Santiago, and has not made any public appearances since Friday.

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