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Sunday, 13 February, 2000, 19:13 GMT
Pinochet family awaits decision

protests Protesters say Pinochet must face charges

The family of former dictator General Augusto Pinochet are waiting to hear his fate before deciding whether to visit him in the UK, his supporters say.

The pinochet File
The wrangle over the general's future has reached its height: his health is reported to have deteriorated just as a final decision is due on whether he must face extradition proceedings.

Supporters of the 84-year-old general say he is seriously unwell.

But the Chilean ambassador to London has played down the illness, saying he had become depressed by the long wait.

Whenever there is an important decision about to be made about the Pinochet case... we see claims being made about his health
The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture
A spokesman for the pro-Pinochet group said that his relatives would not consider flying to Britain until a decision was made over whether to make public a confidential report on his health.

Last month, after seeing the report, Mr Straw signalled that he was "minded" to turn down on health grounds requests for the 84-year-old general's extradition to Spain to stand trial on charges dating back to his 17-year reign.

Belgium, and six human rights groups, have been taking High Court action to make the medical report public so that it can be challenged.

Lawyers for the Home Secretary Jack Straw are fighting the action, citing medical confidentiality.

Psychiatrist call

Meanwhile, anti-Pinochet pressure groups have cast doubt on claims that the general's health has seriously worsened.

The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, which has called for a new examination of the general to be carried out with a psychiatrist, said the latest reports about his health fitted a familiar pattern.

supporters Pinochet supporters say he is too frail to stand trial
A spokesman said: "Whenever there is an important decision about to be made about the Pinochet case, such as the one expected next week, we see claims being made about his health.

"We know he is suffering from several complaints but that should not divert from the necessity of the details of his condition being made available to those states seeking his extradition."

The private Princess Margaret Hospital in Windsor, where the former dictator has received treatment for previous ailments in the past, said it had not been warned to expect the general.

A Chilean air force plane is waiting at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire to fly him home to Chile if the legal action fails.

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See also:
13 Feb 00 |  UK
Doubt over Pinochet health fears
12 Feb 00 |  UK
Pinochet 'depressed over delays'
09 Feb 00 |  UK
Judgment reserved in Pinochet case

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