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The BBC's Joshua Rozenberg
"General would have difficulty understanding questions"
 real 28k

Ramon Perez Maura from ABC newspaper
"Confident of source"
 real 28k

Kate Allen, Amnesty Intl
"Justice for thousands of people"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 15:43 GMT
Pinochet 'brain damaged'

Pinochet Medical report was supposed to be confidential


General Augusto Pinochet has brain damage and is unfit to stand trial, according to Spanish newspaper reports.

The pinochet File
The articles in El Mundo and ABC claim to have extracts from the crucial medical report into the former Chilean dictator's health which prompted Jack Straw to say he was "minded" to allow him to return home.

The confidential report had been sent to Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and France after the High Court ruled that Home Secretary Jack Straw must disclose it to the countries seeking General Pinochet's extradition on torture charges.

Lawyers for the 84-year-old general have issued a stern condemnation of the leak of the report and said they would be seeking action from the Home Office.

supporters Pinochet supporters say he is too frail to stand trial
Michael Caplan, of Kingsley Napley, said: "This is a matter of great concern to us. I have written immediately to the Home Office asking what inquiries they propose to make of the requesting states and what course of action they propose taking."

The Home Office refused to comment on the leak but made no suggestion that the details were inaccurate.

'Extensive brain damage'

According to the ABC newspaper, the report had been signed by three British medical experts who concluded General Pinochet shows "clinical evidence of extensive brain damage".

Both newspapers quoted the report as saying: "His memory of distant facts is deficient. He would have difficulty making himself heard and understood."

ABC, which has also published the article on its website, added that the report had found the general was "physically fit" to face trial, but prolonged stress was likely to cause a deterioration in his condition.

General Pinochet is known to have diabetes and a pace-maker. His supporters say he has also suffered two strokes in recent months.

Report 'not leaked'

It is not clear how the confidential report came into the hands of the Spanish press.

Ramon Perez Maura, foreign editor of ABC, who claims to have been the first to see a copy, denied it had been leaked to him by the Spanish government, which has made clear its reluctance to host a trial of the general.

Interviewed on the BBC Radio 5 Live Nicky Campbell programme he said: "I'm not going to tell you how I got hold of the report.

"It was not leaked by anyone, but we had to fight to get hold of it," he said.

If all four countries seeking extradition are satisfied with the medical reports they have received from the Home Office, the general could find himself on the way home in a matter of weeks.

However, French lawyers are said to be urging their justice ministry to request fresh medical tests.

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See also:
16 Feb 00 |  Europe
The Pinochet health report
16 Feb 00 |  Health
Pinochet 'brain damage' analysis
15 Feb 00 |  UK
Protesters hail Pinochet ruling
15 Feb 00 |  Americas
Clashes after Pinochet ruling
13 Feb 00 |  UK
Doubt over Pinochet health fears
12 Feb 00 |  UK
Pinochet 'depressed over delays'

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