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Tuesday, 25 July, 2000, 18:13 GMT 19:13 UK
Pinochet decision postponed
Pro-Pinochet graffiti
Pinochet is 'Sovereign' according to one graffiti artist
The Supreme Court in Chile has rejected a request by lawyers representing the former military ruler, Augusto Pinochet, for new medical tests to be carried out to see if he is fit to stand trial.

The ruling, by 11 votes to nine, came as the judges deliberated whether to lift the general's immunity from prosecution so he can be tried for human rights abuses.

The court will take that decision, which is final, next week.

Mr Pinochet's defence team had argued that their client was unfit to stand trial.

The law in Chile does not recognise poor physical health as a reason for avoiding trial, but those found to be in inadequate mental health may be excused.

History of case
Oct 1998: Arrested in Britain
Oct 1998: Released over immunity
Nov 1998: Immunity rejected
Dec 1998: British government rejects release
Dec 1998: Immunity decision set aside over possible bias
March 1999: Immunity again rejected
Sept 1999: Extradition hearing begins
Oct 1999: Adjourned over health
March 2000: Government decides against extradition
March 2000: Return to Chile

Previous ruling

Last week the court heard three days of legal argument over whether General Pinochet's immunity from prosecution should be scrapped, clearing the way for a human rights trial.

A lower court has already found against General Pinochet, but he appealed against the ruling.

If the Supreme Court rules that Mr Pinochet's immunity does not prevent him from standing trail, he will face more than 140 cases which have been lodged by human rights campaigners.

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.

General Pinochet returns
General Pinochet returned to Chile in March

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

General Pinochet's lawyers told the Supreme Court that he was innocent of human rights abuses, and said that, in any case, the courts had no power to try former heads of state.

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.

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