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Monday, October 19, 1998 Published at 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK

Talking Point

Was the UK right to arrest Pinochet?

The police in London have detained former Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, following a request for his arrest by two Spanish judges.

Judges Baltasar Garzon and Manuel Garcia Castellon have arrived in the UK to question him about the deaths of Spanish citizens in Chile between 1973 and 1983.

The notorious 82-year-old arrived in the UK last week with a diplomatic passport, so he could have surgery on his back at the London Bridge Hospital.

Home Office Minister, Alun Michael, said there was no reason to stop the former dictator entering the UK despite his alleged involvement in the political killings of more than 4,000 people during his reign as commander-in-chief of the Chilean army.

"He would have provided evidence of coming for medical treatment, and there's no reason for the immigration authorities to stop him at that stage," he said.

Do you think the UK should have arrested Pinochet? Was it right even to let him into the country?

Opponents of General Pinochet welcome his arrest. Many of them say that he should have been arrested years ago for his crimes against humanity.

However his supporters say the UK has betrayed Chile, pointing to General Pinochet's support for Britain during the 1982 Falklands War.

Alun Michael said the UK had not bowed to political pressure from Spain, saying that the request for extradition would be considered according to the law.

The application for General Pinochet's extradition will be ruled on by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw. But the Chilean ambassador, Mario Artaza, is fiercely opposed to any such action.

"We have presented formally a protest because we believe it violates the diplomatic immunity parliamentarians have always had in Chile," he said.

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Was the UK right to arrest Pinochet?

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