BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's James Reynolds
"Outside the court, amid heavy security, rival groups of Pinochet supporters and opponents gathered"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 19 July, 2000, 20:02 GMT 21:02 UK
Pinochet fights to escape trial
Pro-Pinichet graffiti
Graffiti reading 'Pinochet is Sovereign' painted on a bus
Chile's Supreme Court has ended its first day of hearings on whether former military ruler General Augusto Pinochet should be tried for human rights abuses.

The court is to rule on General Pinochet's appeal against a lower-court decision which stripped him of his immunity from prosecution - a preliminary step towards a full trial.

During Wednesday's session the 20 members of the Supreme Court voted to turn down a request made by General Pinochet's lawyers for medical tests to be carried out on him, ruling that tests should not be performed at this stage.

The pinochet File
General Pinochet was returned to Chile in March on grounds of ill health, following more than 500 days under arrest in Britain.

If the Supreme Court upholds the ruling, and General Pinochet's immunity from prosecution is lifted, he will face more than 130 criminal complaints.

The general was originally granted immunity because of his life-long seat in the senate, which he was given in 1980.


The session on the first of three days of hearings lasted around three hours, and was taken up primarily with an outline of the case against General Pinochet, presented by a court official.

General Pinochet returns
General Pinochet returned to Chile in March
Outside the court, amid heavy security, rival groups of Pinochet supporters and opponents gathered to demonstrate.

The groups, of around 100 protesters each, were kept well apart by the police, and there were no serious confrontations.


Opposing lawyers will present their case on Thursday and Friday.

Lawyers seeking General Pinochet's prosecution will argue that he is guilty of ordering an army squad to kill opponents of the military government shortly after the 1973 coup.

Central to the case against General Pinochet are allegations of his involvement in the so-called "Death Caravan", a military squad which roamed Chile in October 1973 searching for left-wing opponents of the general's regime.

The squad is believed to have killed at least 72 people, mainly dissidents dragged from prisons and summarily executed.

Prosecution lawyers will also argue that the general is fit enough to face a full trial.

Amnesty law

The general's team will argue that he is innocent of all charges raised against him and that he is too ill to face trial.

The hearings will end on Friday, and a verdict is expected during the next few weeks.

Despite the latest proceedings, General Pinochet still may never be convicted because of a law that grants amnesty to those responsible for human rights abuses in Chile between 1973 and 1978, when most of the offences allegedly occurred.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

09 Jun 00 | Americas
Pinochet appeal begins
05 Jun 00 | Americas
Pinochet stripped of immunity
04 Mar 00 | Americas
Thousands march against Pinochet
20 Jan 00 | The Pinochet file
Pinochet profile: Saviour or tyrant
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories