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Wednesday, August 11, 1999 Published at 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK


Pinochet health warning

Families of the victims battle with Pinochet supporters in Chile

The younger son of former Chilean military ruler Augusto Pinochet has warned that his father is seriously ill and may die if not released from British custody soon.

The pinochet File
Pinochet, 83, was arrested on 16 October during a London visit on the orders of Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon who wants the general tried for alleged human rights abuses during his 1973-90 dictatorship.

Marco Antonio Pinochet said his father needs to go back to Chile soon, even if he has to end up facing charges there.

"He is not in good health. He can't walk much. We're afraid he's going to lose his legs," the son told the BBC's Newsnight programme. He cited a medical report that details a litany of illnesses.

Medical danger

The son said Chile is the appropriate place for any legal action against his father. "Make the people judge him where the things happened," he said.

[ image: Doctos say the stress of captivity could lead to death]
Doctos say the stress of captivity could lead to death
Chile's Foreign Ministry said last week that it is seeking the ex-dictator's release on health grounds.

The ministry said a British and a Chilean doctor examined Mr Pinochet, who lives under police guard at a rented mansion west of London, and concluded that he has life-threatening medical problems.


The medical report ordered by the Chilean Government said Pinochet has 12 illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, prostate problems, arthritis of the left knee and mild asthma.

"He has serious medical problems with a very significant risk of death and serious illness," the doctors wrote in the report.

"We are very much of the view that further captivity will result in serious illness and do not believe that he would be able to stand the stress of further captivity or a long trial."

The report was signed by Helmuth Hernandez, Mr Pinochet's personal doctor, and by a local doctor who has been treating him in Britain.

The Daily Telegraph said the Chilean Embassy had passed it on to the UK Government.

'Legal resolution' Pinochet has failed in a series of court cases to get immunity from prosecution in Britain and is due to appear at an extradition hearing on 27 September.

France and Switzerland have also lodged extradition requests.

"I think my father did make mistakes because he is a man," Marco Pinochet said. "He's not a perfect person. I agree there was excessive repression against terrorists."

Amnesty International said the medical report should not influence the extradition proceedings.

"The question of whether Pinochet can stand trial is a question for a court-appointed medical specialist, not Pinochet's private physician.

"This is a matter that requires a legal, not a political resolution," the human rights organisation said.

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