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Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Published at 14:13 GMT

Pinochet ruling: What next?

Protesters against General Pinochet in London's Trafalgar Square

The decision by five senior judges in the House of Lords in London that General Pinochet is not protected from prosecution by sovereign immunity means he will have to remain in Britain while the legal process continues.

The pinochet File
Spain is seeking General Pinochet's extradition on charges of murder, terrorism and torture.

But before full extradition proceedings can begin, the UK Home Secretary Jack Straw will have to decide whether to let the case go any further.

He has up to a week in which to make up his mind - a magistrate has said Mr Straw should decide by 2 December whether to issue what is called an "authority to proceed", listing the charges against the general.

That time limit could be extended.

Chile may submit arguments on behalf of General Pinochet to Mr Straw, who would take them into consideration in his decision.

If he decides not to proceed, he will have to cancel the arrest warrant under which General Pinochet is being held and order his release from custody.

Timetable for hearings

[ image: Jack Straw: May decide the case should not proceed]
Jack Straw: May decide the case should not proceed
If Mr Straw gives his authority for the case to proceed, General Pinochet will have to appear before a Magistrate in London on 2 December unless considered too ill to do so.

The extradition proceedings would then continue.

But even if the courts were to decide that General Pinochet should be extradited to Spain, the Home Secretary might still decide at the end of the proceedings that he should not be handed over for trial.

In that case, it is expected the general would leave the UK before another country applies for his extradition.

Several other countries want to bring him to justice, and Switzerland, France and Belgium have already filed requests to put him on trial for the killing of their citizens.

Chilean sources say the general made preparations in case the ruling went against him and he is forced to remain in Britain.

They say a private house near London has been prepared for him, and his lawyers have been drawing up a robust defence against his extradition.

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