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Saturday, September 11, 1999 Published at 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK


Pinochet coup remembered

Supporters bring Pinochet "wishes of the Chilean people"

Supporters of General Augusto Pinochet met the former dictator at his home in the UK, where he is under house arrest, to mark the 26th anniversary of the military coup which brought him to power.

The BBC's Rachael Payne: "There are violent scenes on the streets of Chile"
A delegation of senators and businessmen crowded into a small lounge in his Surrey mansion, which is home until extradition proceedings decide whether he should be sent to Spain to answer charges of torture during his time in power.

General Pinochet, 83, accompanied by his wife, Lucia, walked into the room with the aid of a stick and embraced the Chilean representatives.

[ image: Pinochet as he was in 1973]
Pinochet as he was in 1973
Saturday's delegation included the Vice President of the Senate, Mario Rios, other senators and members of the Chilean business community.

Vice President Rios said he was sending Pinochet "the wishes of the Chilean people".

But senator Francisco Prat charged the British Government with "hypocrisy from beginning to end" over the general's arrest.

He said all institutional mechanisms would be used to release the general.

After ousting President Salvador Allende on 11 September, 1973, on the grounds that the elected socialist was taking Chile down the road of Marxism, Pinochet declared, "I am the economy".

That is why business leaders, many of whom believe Pinochet's financial policies laid the foundation for Chile's relatively robust economy, joined the visit.

Police asked to investigate

However, the anniversary is also being marked by anti-Pinochet campaigners.

About 250 demonstrators gathered outside the Wentworth mansion, shouting and chanting "assassin" and singing anti-Pinochet songs.

Dozens of tiny wooden crosses were planted outside the house in memory of the thousands of people allegedly murdered during the Pinochet regime.

[ image: In Chile, the anniversary has been marked by protests]
In Chile, the anniversary has been marked by protests
On Friday a group of relatives of Chile's "disappeared" submitted a formal request to the Metropolitan Police to launch a criminal investigation into the former general for alleged acts of torture.

Their action was backed by the Chile Committee for Justice, which said that unresolved "disappearances" constituted an ongoing act of torture and a criminal offence.

Amnesty International called on the Chilean authorities to mark the anniversary by launching an investigation into the disappearance of Briton William Beausire, who was abducted in 1974.

In Chile, the anniversary has been getting a mixed reaction. Society is divided between supporters of Pinochet, and sympathisers with the ousted regime of President Allende.

Sporadic protests broke out on the eve of the anniversary, with some clashes between police and demonstrators in working-class areas and student campuses.

Hearing pending

An official Chilean report says that more than 3,000 people were killed or went missing during Pinochet's 1973-1990 dictatorship.

The extradition proceedings against him, which are due to begin in London on 27 September, relate to charges of torture and conspiracy to torture.

However, it is possible that any extradition could be halted on health grounds. Supporters say he is suffering from at least a dozen illnesses, including depression.

Gen Pinochet also faces 30 lawsuits in Chile.

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