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Saturday, October 24, 1998 Published at 23:23 GMT 00:23 UK


UK gave Pinochet VIP welcome

Demonstrators call for General Pinochet to be brought to justice

Former Chilean ruler General Augusto Pinochet was given a VIP welcome by the UK Foreign Office when he arrived in Britain, it has emerged.

The pinochet File
The Hounslow suite at Heathrow Airport was reserved and paid for by Foreign Office officials at the request of the Chilean ambassador, an FCO spokeswoman has confirmed.

On Friday, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook admitted in a letter to his shadow counterpart Michael Howard that the UK Government had been informed in advance of General Pinochet's visit and that the "normal arrangements" for a visit by an ex-head of state had been made.

However Mr Cook did not outline what these arrangements involved.

On Saturday, the foreign secretary turned down a formal request from Chile to release the former Chilean military ruler.

General Pinochet is under arrest in a private London clinic facing possible extradition to Spain for the murders of Spanish nationals under his rule.

[ image: Chile expects the general to disappear from political life]
Chile expects the general to disappear from political life
Mr Cook told Chilean Deputy Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez that it was neither "proper nor possible" for the UK Government to intervene in the extradition proceedings.

But at a meeting at the Foreign Office, Mr Cook also underlined that he did not want the extradition case to interfere with Britain's relations with Chile.

Mr Fernandez flew into London on Friday night to step up Chile's efforts to secure the release of General Pinochet.

The Foreign Office spokeswoman said Mr Fernandez was given a full hearing by Mr Cook, who explained it was a matter of "due legal process and it was not proper nor possible to intervene".

The meeting followed a fresh formal request by Chile for the "immediate end" of the detention of General Pinochet, whose lawyers go to the High Court on Monday in an attempt to get his arrest ruled invalid.

Support for diplomatic immunity claim

The Chilean Foreign Ministry said a formal note was handed to British ambassador Glynne Evans on Friday with new legal information to support Chile's claim that the general has diplomatic immunity.

The ministry said the note restated that Chile does not recognise foreign courts' right to interfere in domestic events.

Foreign Minister Jose Miguel Insulza said the Chilean Government expects that once General Pinochet is back home, the ailing former dictator will "disappear from our political life".

[ image: Braving the British weather to protest outside the clinic]
Braving the British weather to protest outside the clinic
He added: "When General Pinochet comes back to Chile, he should go to his house. That is the government's position. This country can no longer be subject to the tensions and divisions that his figure causes."

More than 150 protesters stood in driving wind and rain outside the clinic where General Pinochet is recovering from back surgery calling for him to be brought to justice.

To the beat of drums and tambourines the protesters waved flags and chanted "We want justice".

A group of 35 Chileans who have lived in France for more than two decades made the trip to London to join the protest outside the clinic for 12 hours.

Two men were arrested for minor public order offences during the protest.

There were also protests in Spain where thousands marched through the capital, Madrid, calling for the general's extradition.

Some of the demonstrators carried photographs of those killed during the Pinochet era and denounced the general as a dictator.

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