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The BBC's James Reynolds
"These two groups of people had never been in the same room before"
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Friday, 21 July, 2000, 20:51 GMT 21:51 UK
Lawyers plead for Pinochet trial
Pinochet returns
Too ill for trial in Europe but sickness is no defence in Chile
Human rights lawyers have urged the Supreme Court in Chile to strip the country's former leader, Augusto Pinochet, of his immunity from prosecution.

The lawyers were addressing the court in the final session of a three-day hearing, held to decide whether the ageing general should stand trial for alleged human rights abuses during his years in power.

A lower court has already found against General Pinochet but he appealed to the Supreme Court which is expected to make the final decision in a few weeks.

If the Supreme Court upholds the decision against him, he will face more than 140 cases which have been lodged by human rights campaigners.

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

On Friday, lawyers representing human rights groups urged the 20 Supreme Court judges to remove the general's immunity from prosecution.

Anti-Pinochet demonstration
Pinochet opponents: Carrying banners of deposed President Allende
The 20 Supreme Court judges have already heard from General Pinochet's lawyers, who argue that he is innocent and that, in any case, the courts have no power to try former heads of state.

Defence lawyer Gustavo Collado, said before the start of Friday's session: "We are very optimistic that the judges understand that Pinochet did not take part in any of the events that have been alleged against him."

The street outside the court has provided another forum for pro- and anti-Pinochet campaigners to trade slogans and wave banners.

'Death Caravan'

General Pinochet returned to Chile in March, after a long legal battle in the UK. He was finally declared too ill to be extradited to Spain to face trial on human rights charges.

However, the law in Chile does not recognise poor physical health as a reason for avoiding trial.

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.

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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
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