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Wednesday, December 9, 1998 Published at 17:57 GMT

UK Politics

Straw sets out his reasons

Jack Straw: Allowing proceedings to go ahead

UK Home Secretary Jack Straw is allowing extradition proceedings to go ahead that could see former Chilean dictator General Pinochet stand trial in Spain for mass murder.

The pinochet File
In a written reply to a question from an MP, Mr Straw said he was proceeding on the basis that General Pinochet did not enjoy sovereign immunity.

[ image: General Pinochet now facing extradition]
General Pinochet now facing extradition
He also rejected the notion that the offences alleged against the former dictator were "of a political character".

Mr Straw made the ruling in the home secretary's "quasi-judicial" capacity, saying it was not a political decision.

His announcement effectively confirms a ruling two weeks ago by the Law Lords who said the former dictator did not have immunity from prosecution.

The decision has delighted many Labour MPs but has received a cooler reception from the Chilean Government who were hoping the general would be allowed to return home saying a trial could undermine the country's fragile democracy.

General Pinochet was arrested while receiving hospital treatment in Britain in October at the request of the Spanish authorities who want the General to stand trial for the murders of Spanish citizens allegedly committed in his name.

The home secretary's statement also noted that the age of the alleged offences - many of which were said to have been committed in the early 1970s - would not make the continuation of legal proceedings unjust or oppressive.

The issue of the 83-year-old's health was also addressed, with the statement saying: "The secretary of state has considered these carefully, but concluded that it does not appear that the senator is unfit to stand trial and concluded that in all the circumstances it would not be unjust or oppressive for him to stand trial in relation to the offences with which he is charged."

The reply continued: "The secretary of state does not consider the possibility of a trial in Chile to be a factor which outweighs the UK's obligations under the European Convention on Extradition to extradite Senator Pinochet to Spain."

Mr Straw also considered the possible effect of extradition proceedings on Chile's political stability, and the future of its democracy, and the possible impact of the proceedings on the UK's national interest.

But the reply concluded "that the material and representations put before him do not amount to sufficient grounds not to issue an Authority to Proceed."

Mr Straw will consider the extradition request afresh once the proceedings are complete.

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Internet Links

Home Office

The full text of the Law Lords' ruling

Amnesty International

House of Lords - Judicial Work and Judgements

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