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Friday, October 8, 1999 Published at 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK

UK Politics

Tory dismay over Pinochet ruling

Campaigners celebrate the court's ruling in London

Former chancellor Lord Lamont has warned that the decision to extradite General Augusto Pinochet from the UK will badly damage relations with South America.

The pinochet File
It follows the ruling by a London court that the former Chilean ruler can be extradited to Spain to face 35 charges, which include one of conspiracy to torture and 34 of torture.

Lord Lamont, who spoke at a meeting in defence of Gen Pinochet at the Conservative Party conference, said he expected the decision.

He said: "I have always thought General Pinochet would, at this hearing, be committed [for extradition].

[ image: Lamont: Fears for relationship with Chile]
Lamont: Fears for relationship with Chile
"I would have been surprised if the magistrate had come to any other conclusion because the issue that was put before the magistrate was not what evidence connected General Pinochet with the allegations, it was whether were these extraditable crimes over which Spain had jurisdiction."

Gen Pinochet was arrested in London last October and is currently under house arrest.

Last month, he suffered two strokes and was excused from attending Friday's ruling on the grounds of ill health.

Lord Lamont continued: "I fear Britain's relationship with Chile will be badly damaged, particularly if General Pinochet dies here.

"Whether we like it or not, General Pinochet is one of the most significant people in Chilean history this century and if General Pinochet dies in this country, I think that will have a very damaging affect on Britain's relationship not only with Chile but with South America."

'Great friend to Britain'

[ image: General Pinochet is under house arrest]
General Pinochet is under house arrest
Gerald Howarth, Conservative MP for Aldershot, who has been campaigning against General Pinochet's extradition, said the general was a "great friend" to Britain

He said: "There is no question, as Lady Thatcher pointed out this week, that many more British lives would have been lost in the Falklands had it not been for the risks taken by the Chilean Government headed by General Pinochet.

"It is scandalous that Britain should stand in the way of reconciliation in Chile, usurping the right of the Chilean people to decide on these matters themselves."

Tory peer Lord Tebbit, also an opponent of the extradition bid, said: "I am not surprised.

"After all they must have been aware that the prime minister himself intervened last week by telling them that General Pinochet was 'unspeakable'.

"I hope General Pinochet's lawyers have this decision reversed since there can be no justice when the prime minister intervenes in such a blatant manner in proceedings in court."

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