The Guardian August 18, 1999


Britain:
Activists applaud Pinochet decision

by Leigh Arnold

While the Spanish and Chilean Foreign Ministers negotiate a deal to halt 
proceedings to extradite former dictator General Augusto Pinochet from 
Britain to stand trial in Spain on charges of torture and terrorism, 
Chilean democrats have applauded a decision by Britain's Crown Prosecution 
Service (CPS) to allow Pinochet to be prosecuted in Britain.

"The obligation is to extradite or prosecute", a CPS official told the 
Sunday Telegraph newspaper. "If Spain withdraws its extradition 
request, the Home Secretary will be obliged to refer the case to Scotland 
Yard for investigation."

The British-based Chile Committee for Justice said that it would be 
"fitting and right" if the prosecution "were to take place in Britain.

"Pinochet was responsible for the murder, disappearance and torture of 
countless thousands of Chileans", said a committee spokeswoman. "But it 
should also be remembered that British citizens were among his victims."

A spokeswoman for the Committee Against Impunity, which is also based in 
Britain, said that it too was "very, very happy" with the CPS announcement. 
Under the UN Torture Convention, General Pinochet could face charges for 
alleged crimes committed abroad.

Both groups strongly criticised the Spanish Government over its efforts to 
wriggle out of putting General Pinochet on trial. They accused the Spanish 
Government of attempting to "undermine Spain's hard-won judicial 
independence" and demanded that the judicial process be carried through in 
Spain.

"If we leave this to political negotiations, General Pinochet will go 
free", said the Committee Against Impunity.

In Spain, the High Court judge who originally ordered Pinochet's detention 
has protested against the Spanish-Chilean negotiations and demanded that 
such "interference" in the independence of the Spanish judiciary cease. The 
Spanish opposition has also condemned the move.

The British CPS decision came after Amnesty International lodged a formal 
complaint against the general with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir 
Paul Condon.

"As with any investigation, the police would have to look into the 
complaint and present us with a file", said a CPS spokeswoman.

She said that the service was still focused on extradition, but confirmed 
that a British police investigation was "an option" if Spain abandoned its 
action.

Recent reports have emerged that Chilean Foreign Minister Juan Gabriel 
Valdes is close to agreeing a deal with Spain to drop the charges. General 
Pinochet has been held in Britain since last October, following Spain's 
extradition request over accusations of human rights abuses during his 
1973-90 rule.

He is due to face an extradition hearing at the end of next month.

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Morning Star

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