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Monday, 6 March, 2000, 17:04 GMT
Pinochet wins legal costs
Pinochet arrives back
Pinochet had a warm welcome home in Chile
Former Chilean leader General Augusto Pinochet has been awarded legal costs estimated at up to 500,000 ($789,000).

The pinochet File
The money is to pay for work done by his lawyers at earlier hearings and in preparation for a forthcoming legal challenge which has now been abandoned.

It will come "out of central funds" - which means UK taxpayers pick up the bill.

The actual amount was unspecified, but it is expected to add up to half a million pounds to the total bill for the Pinochet affair.

Home Secretary Jack Straw has estimated the total cost of the case at 1.3m but it is thought the actual figure could be nearer 15m once the cost of security operations are added.

Monday's award relates to a High Court application - overtaken by events - for a writ of habeas corpus to free the former Chilean dictator from custody in the UK.

'Full circle'

Mr Clive Nicholls QC, instructed by General Pinochet's solicitors, told two High Court judges there had been "enormous pressure" on the lawyers to continue with the application right up until last Thursday's decision to allow General Pinochet to go home.

Lord Justice Schiemann, sitting with Mr Justice Douglas Brown, agreed that a costs order should be made and the matter brought to an end.

The judge reminisced how, in October 1998, he had been the first High Court judge to hear a Pinochet application and added: "Things have come full circle."

Too ill

For 17 months the UK detained the 84-year-old while a series of costly legal battles were fought over whether or not he should be extradited to Spain for trial on charges of human rights abuses.

Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and France had all indicated they wanted to try him for alleged torture and conspiracy to torture.

But last week Mr Straw finally set him free on the grounds that he was too ill to stand trial.

General Pinochet returned home to Chile on Friday.

He was arrested in London in October 1998 at the request of Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon.

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