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The BBC's Joshua Rozenberg
"Lengthy extracts from the report appeared i Spanish newspapers"
 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, 16:55 GMT
Anger at Pinochet leak

Pinochet The medical report was supposed to be confidential


Lawyers for General Augusto Pinochet are calling for an investigation into whether the leaking of a vital medical report on him was contempt of court.

The pinochet File
Both the Attorney General and Home Secretary Jack Straw are being asked to investigate.

The medical report - revealing the former Chilean dictator has brain damage and is unfit to stand trial - appeared to have been leaked to Spanish newspapers.

Extracts also appeared on the internet.

supporters Pinochet supporters say he is too frail to stand trial
The articles in El Mundo and ABC contained extracts from what was said to be the medical report which prompted Jack Straw to say he was "minded" to allow the general 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.

Mr Straw had been refusing to reveal the report on the grounds of medical confidentiality.

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

'Breach of court order'

The court had insisted that copies of the report be treated in strictest confidence.

The Attorney General's office confirmed that it had received an approach from lawyers acting for General Pinochet requesting an investigation.

Pinochet's solicitor, Michael Caplan, said the leak was a matter of great concern.

He said: "The court made it clear that the medical report was to be disclosed only to Spain, Belgium, France and Switzerland on a confidential basis and that the senator's right to privacy was to be respected.

"Within hours of the judgment there has been a clear breach of the court order."

'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
Transcript: 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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