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Friday, September 24, 1999 Published at 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK

World: Europe

Spanish court backs Pinochet arrest

Pinochet's supporters will be disappointed by the ruling

Spain's highest criminal court has upheld an arrest warrant against former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet for crimes linked to his 17-year military rule.

The pinochet File
The ruling comes just days before the start of extradition proceedings in London next Monday.

A three-judge appeal court panel upheld a decision by Spain's High Court that Judge Baltasar Garzon has jurisdiction to prosecute General Pinochet on human rights charges.

The Spanish state prosecutor's office complained in July that the detention order against the former president was more than five months old and therefore invalid.

They argued in this week's hearing that the 83-year-old general, who was arrested last October at Judge Garzon's request, enjoyed immunity as a former head of state.

But Spain's High court rejected the complaint, saying it would put the legal process against General Pinochet at risk.

Opposition in high places

BBC Madrid correspondent Daniel Schweimler says the state prosecutor's complaint highlights the opposition by some members of the Spanish judicial system to the case against General Pinochet.

He says their views are shared by Spain's conservative government, which has seen its previously good relations with Chile deteriorate ever since the General was arrested in London almost a year ago.

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