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The BBC's Yvette Austin
"A round up of reaction in the UK"
 real 28k

The BBC's James Reynolds in Chile
"The army says there will be a small welcoming ceremony"
 real 28k

The BBC's Daniel Schweimler in Madrid
"Spain will respect the decision"
 real 28k

Thursday, 2 March, 2000, 12:38 GMT
Pinochet set free
General Pinochet
General Pinochet ruled Chile for 17 years
Former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet will not be extradited on torture charges and is free to leave the UK, Home Secretary Jack Straw has decided.

The pinochet File
Mr Straw believes the general is medically unfit to stand trial in England.

Without any last-minute legal challenges, the general could be on a plane home within hours - ending 16 months of wrangling over his future.

Belgium, Spain and France have said they will not appeal, while Switzerland has indicated it is unlikely to do so.

General Pinochet slipped out of the Wentworth estate, Surrey - where he has been under house arrest - in a convoy under police escort just before 1000 GMT, avoiding angry protesters and media.


The attempted trial of an accused in the condition diagnosed in Senator Pinochet...could not be a fair trial in any country

Home Office
His motorcade has arrived at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, where a Chilean Air Force Boeing 707 is waiting on the runway to take him and his entourage home.

Mr Straw made his decision after re-examining a medical report filed on General Pinochet in January.

He considered criticisms of the medical report from Spain, Switzerland, Belgium and France but decided they were unjustified.

supporters
Pinochet supporters say he is too frail to stand trial
"The attempted trial of an accused in the condition diagnosed in Senator Pinochet on the charges which have been made against him in this case, could not be a fair trial in any country and would violate Article Six of the European Convention on Human Rights," said a Home Office letter to the Spanish ambassador.

In January, Mr Straw had said he was "minded" to allow the general to go free, after medical experts said he was unfit to stand trial.


We have tried to make the world listen, we wanted justice, we are not getting it

Henrika Harkko, protester
They concluded the 84-year-old had "extensive brain damage". Their report said he was suffering from memory loss and had difficulties expressing himself and understanding complicated phrases.

'Posturing'

While the Tories welcomed the decision, leader William Hague accused Labour of shambolic incompetence after the announcement.

He said 4m of public money had been wasted on "moral posturing" which had achieved nothing.

Protesters have reacted with dismay to the news that the general will not stand trial in Spain.

Henrika Harkko, a 24-year-old student from Santiago, said: "We have tried to make the world listen, we wanted justice, we are not getting it."

Pinochet timeline
Oct 98: Arrested in London
Nov 98-July 99: Legal wrangle over general's fate
Sept 99: Extradition hearing begins
Oct 99: Extradition approved
Nov 99: Home Office orders medical tests
Jan 00: Straw "minded" to release ill general
Feb 00: Four EU countries challenge medical report
March 00: Straw's final decision
But Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel have said their governments will abide by Mr Straw's decision.

Amnesty International, which has made legal challenges before, said its aim was to achieve justice for the victims, not to prevent Pinochet leaving the UK at all costs.

General Pinochet was arrested in London in October 1998 at the request of Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon who is seeking to put him on trial for human rights abuses during his 17-year rule in Chile.

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