Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Published at 17:56 GMT
Pinochet faces extradition battle
Jubilant anti-Pinochet protesters welcome the news
The UK's highest court has ruled that the former military leader of Chile, General Augusto Pinochet, can face an attempt to extradite him to Spain.
The Chilean President, Eduardo Frei, promptly reacted to the news by announcing he is sending his foreign minister, Jose Miguel Insulza, to London to appeal to the UK government for the former leader's release.
It was delivered in dramatic fashion with Lord Slynn and Lord Lloyd delivering their verdicts that the general should be allowed to fly home.
His announcement was met with gasps inside the chamber, while outside the Houses of Parliament around 100 demonstrators were jubilant on hearing the news.
Many of them were victims and relatives of people who disappeared during the Pinochet regime and had waited for hours to hear the news.
In Santiago, journalists and camera crews were attacked by Pinochet supporters, while the families of those who disappeared during his years in power celebrated by blowing their car horns.
Extradition battle starts
The judgment dismisses an earlier High Court ruling that the general was "entitled to immunity as a former sovereign from the criminal and civil process of the English courts".
He is due to appear before magistrates in London on 2 December should UK Home Secretary Jack Straw decide to go ahead with the extradition process.
General Pinochet has been in London for two months having originally arrived in the UK to an official Foreign Office welcome.
On 9 October he underwent back surgery in a London private hospital, where he was arrested a week later.
His detention was prompted by a Spanish judge.
Baltasar Garzon's formal request for the general's extradition implicated him in 3,178 murders or "disappearances" during his 17 years of power in Chile.
This began with a bloody military coup in 1973. His regime's abuses are well-documented.
Reign of terror
In 1975 the United Nations recognised a deliberate policy of torture, and a year later concluded that such cases should be prosecuted as crimes against humanity.
Chile's ambassador to London, Mario Artaza protested that the general was entitled to diplomatic immunity.
"We will use all the instruments, using all diplomatic, political and all other arguments that exisit to defend our principle.
"We are not here to protect a dictator of yesterday, we are here to protect and defend our transition to democracy," he said.
Days before his arrest General Pinochet had drinks in London with his friend, the former UK Prime Minister Lady Thatcher.
Following the Law Lords' decision, she repeated her demand that the "old, frail and sick" general be released and allowed to return to Chile.
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