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Monday, October 19, 1998 Published at 21:04 GMT 22:04 UK


Pinochet vows to fight extradition

Demonstrators protested outside the British embassy in Chile

Brian Hanrahan: Pinochet is accused of genocide, torture and terrorism
The former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet has declared he is confident that he will defeat an attempt to extradite him to Spain after his arrest in the UK on Friday.

As General Pinochet remained under police guard in a private London hospital, the Spanish judge directing the case broadened his inquiry to encompass allegations of genocide, torture and terrorism of 94 people.

But in a statement issued by London solicitors Kingsley Napley, 82-year-old General Pinochet made it clear he believed he would resist extradition.

[ image: The general could appear before magistrates in two weeks]
The general could appear before magistrates in two weeks
"Any attempt to extradite him from the UK will be resolutely opposed. Both he and his family are confident of success," it said.

The general entered the UK with the full prior knowledge of the government and with Foreign Office approval, the statement said.

"Permission for him to enter and stay in this country was stamped in his diplomatic passport. Over recent years General Pinochet has travelled without hindrance to the UK on several occasions with the approval of Her Majesty's Government."

Chilean ambassador to London Mario Artaza delivered a protest letter to the Foreign Office, arguing that a Chilean Senator travelling on a diplomatic passport should not have been arrested.

Mario Artaza; "The government of Chile is not trying to shield Mr Pinochet from the wrath of the law"
He emerged after 70 minutes, saying: "We are trying to protect our institutions and somebody who was travelling with a diplomatic passport and who is a senator in Chile," he said.

The general, who seized power in Chile in 1973, was arrested on Friday night at the request of two Spanish judges.

Reports from Spain indicated that the leading judge in the case, Baltasar Garzon, has expanded the breadth of his inquiry as he prepares an extradition request.

The judge previously accused General Pinochet of being involved in the torture and murder of 79 people. He has now made clear that he suspects there were more victims and they were not only Spanish citizens, but also from Argentina, Chile, the United States and the UK.

Home Secretary Jack Straw: A decision will be based on the facts of the case
Earlier in the day, Home Secretary Jack Straw promised that Britain's handling of an extradition request would not be influenced by either political considerations or General Pinochet's reputation.

Mr Straw said: "So far as my position is concerned, I will treat this extradition request by Spain in the same way as I treat any other extradition request."

'To let Pinochet go would be monstrous'

A British doctor who suffered repeated torture under General Pinochet's regime more than 20 years ago has said she would be prepared to give evidence against the former dictator if he comes to trial.

Dr Sheila Cassidy, who was seized for treating a man on the run from the regime in Chile, said it was important for the families of those tortured and killed that the dictator was brought to justice.

"I think there are a lot of unhappy people who think to let Pinochet go would be monstrous - and they are the people for whom it matters. It does not matter for me," she said.

Dissent over the arrest came from opposition politicians in the UK.

Kenneth Clarke: "I am concerned about central diplomacy"
Former Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke was concerned that the arrest would affect the UK's relations with Chile.

Speaking on Radio 4's The World at One, he said: "The present (Chilean) government has stopped people from seeking revenge and reopening the old disputes there - that's why Pinochet's at large there with his diplomatic passport as a senator."

The extradition process could be lengthy. A request would go before Bow Street magistrates court, and General Pinochet could appeal any decision to the Divisional Court and the House of Lords. The Home Secretary would take the final decision.

The general is likely to make an appearance at Bow Street as soon as he is fit. It is thought he could remain in hospital for up to two weeks while he recuperates.

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