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Wednesday, October 28, 1998 Published at 16:59 GMT


The legal case for Pinochet

Opponents of Pinochet want him brought to justice

The Lord Chief Justice said Pinochet is entitled to what is called sovereign immunity and as such immune from prosecution in the UK concerning actions carried out as a head of state. Our Legal Affairs Correspondent Joshua Rozenberg reports.

Joshua Rozenberg with the latest from the High Court
There was some discussion as to whether the actions should extend to offences Spain wants to try him for: hostage-taking and torture.

Lord Bingham said it was impossible to draw the line.

Another judge said it would be stretching the law to claim immunity from these crimes.

[ image: Rozenberg: Ruling could block other extradition demands]
Rozenberg: Ruling could block other extradition demands
The judges said if it was an international court such as Nuremberg, Pinochet could have been tried despite the basic principle of international law that a head of state cannot be tried for actions as a head of state.

Costs of the trial were awarded to Pinochet, which means the British taxpayer will have to pay all the court costs.


There was some cheering from Pinochet supporters outside the court.

Leave to appeal has been granted to the House of Lords.

Counsel for the Spanish investigating judge, who is bringing this proceedings, will lodge the papers by 1600(GMT) on Monday.

There could be a hearing before the House of Lords by the end of next week

It was indicated that Pinochet might apply for bail, and could appear before Bow Street Magistrates Court.

The magistrate is being asked if the hearing can be held elsewhere, perhaps the hospital.

Lord Chief Justice Bingham said he was granting the appeal because of the importance of the case not because he thought that the three judges had not made a correct decision.

Other possible litigation

At first sight, this case must block all those applications for extradition, including the application being brought by Chilean exiles in the UK.

If he is entitled to state immunity, he could be entitled to immunity for any acts done in an official capacity wherever he was.

General Pinochet will remain in custody until the outcome of the appeal in the House of Lords is known.

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