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Monday, August 16, 1999 Published at 21:46 GMT 22:46 UK


Pinochet gets boost from visitors

Admiral Arancibia presents General Pinochet with a crucifix

Chilean military officers have visited former dictator Augusto Pinochet to check on his health and boost his morale as he battles against extradition.

The delegation flew from Madrid where General Pinochet's Spanish lawyers discussed how to pursue his legal battle against extradition to Spain to face charges of alleged human rights abuses during his rule.

The pinochet File
The former Chilean ruler was arrested in London last October and is under house arrest awaiting a decision on his extradition.

Gen Pinochet's extradition hearing is set for 27 September. His supporters say he may be too frail to endure lengthy legal proceedings in Britain and then stand trial in Spain.

The delegation is led by Brigadier General Juan Carlos Salgado, who is personally briefing Gen Pinochet. The commander-in-chief of the Chilean Navy, Admiral Jorge Arancibia, also met the retired general.

Legal details

The officers are also meeting his British lawyers, while his Spanish lawyers may fly to the British capital next week.

[ image: The general's supporters say he is too frail to face legal proceedings]
The general's supporters say he is too frail to face legal proceedings
The delegation intends to "evaluate the situation, especially the state of health of General Pinochet", said a statement.

Earlier this week one of Gen Pinochet's Spanish lawyers, Fernando Escardo, said the former dictator should wait for an extradition order in Britain before going to Spain, as he would then only face charges approved by the British courts.

If the former Chilean leader goes to Spain before an extradition order is issued, he could face all the charges brought by Spanish judge Balthasar Garzon.

He accuses Gen Pinochet of involvement in the torture, deaths, or disappearance of more than 3,000 people during his 1973-1990 rule.

Britain's law lords ruled that the former dictator was not answerable for alleged human rights abuses before 1988 - the year Britain adopted the United Nations convention on torture.

Package trip

Gen Pinochet, who stepped down as Chile's president in 1990, denies the charges.

Meanwhile, more than 100 Chileans have signed up for a £1,000 trip to London which includes an audience with Gen Pinochet.

The package includes round-trip airfare, six nights at a hotel, breakfast, and a chance to greet Gen Pinochet at the rented mansion where he is under police guard.

Monica Wehrhahn, of the Augusto Pinochet Foundation, said the purpose of the visit was to be in Britain when hearings begin on 27 September on extraditing Pinochet.

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