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Sunday, November 8, 1998 Published at 02:41 GMT


Defiant Pinochet breaks his silence

An anti-Pinochet rally in London

In his first public statement since his arrest, the former Chilean military ruler general Augusto Pinochet has vowed to fight extradition attempts "with all my spirit".

The pinochet File
Gen Pinochet said: "A show trial in a foreign land is not justice. It is certainly not British justice."

He described how he was "hurt and bewildered" when his tearful wife explained to him why he was under arrest as he recuperated from surgery in a London hospital.

[ image: Pinochet:
Pinochet: "Hurt and bewildered"
Spain is seeking the general's extradition on charges of genocide, terrorism and torture committed in Chile after he came to power by overthrowing the late President Salvador Allende in 1973.

However, the UK Law Lords are currently hearing an appeal against the High Court's ruling that Gen Pinochet's arrest was unlawful because he enjoys sovereign immunity as a former head of state.

'I am at peace with myself'

In his statement the general said he had a clear conscience.

Alva McNicol: The general feels betrayed by the UK
"I am at peace with myself and with the Chilean people," he said.

He said recent reports of his country's history had been a "travesty of the truth" and he was the subject of "spurious attempts by foreign prosecutors to convict me on unproven charges".

[ image: Thatcher: General moved by her support]
Thatcher: General moved by her support
Pointing to reconciliation in Spain itself, where he said the years under the Franco dictatorship were now "ignored", in Northern Ireland and in South Africa, he said in all such cases "wise decisions have been made not to revisit the past".

Baroness Thatcher's call for his release had moved him "beyond measure", he added.

A 'necessary coup'

Underlining his belief in the necessity of his taking power, he said that in the South America of the early 1970s, hard-won freedoms from colonial rule were being "crushed by Soviet-inspired and funded military and political forces.

"Their clear intention was to deprive the people of their democratic freedoms."

Under President Allende's democratically-elected government, Chile was "crippled" with hyper-inflation and shortages and a breakdown of law and order, and a Soviet-inspired insurrection was being planned, he said.

[ image: Pinochet and Allende a month before the coup]
Pinochet and Allende a month before the coup
The people believed it vital for Chile's survival and the preservation of freedom in South America "that Marxism was defeated and Allende's government removed," he added.

"I wish things could have been different. I wish Allende had left of his own accord with the guarantees of safety I offered to him."

The Law Lords will resume hearing evidence on Monday when they will hear further representations on behalf of human rights organisations including Amnesty International, and alleged victims of Pinochet rule.

The 82-year-old general is awaiting the outcome of the appeal under police guard at a private clinic in north London.

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