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Declarations & Statements


Chile Committee for Justice, 31.1.00

El País Publishes Secret Pinochet Letters


Spanish newspaper El País today published secret correspondence between the Home Office and lawyers for international criminal Augusto Pinochet. The letters (copies available from Chile Committee for Justice) cast serious doubt on the process which led the Home Secretary to announce his intention to stop Pinochet's extradition :

* The Home Office proposed on its own initiative that Augusto Pinochet's medical report be kept secret even before they received any request from his lawyers.

* Officials agreed any medical report would be restricted to the Home Office and Pinochet alone.

* Lawyer Michael Caplan told the Home Office he had received detailed instructions from Pinochet about the terms of his examination during November 1999. According to the Home Secretary's 11 January statement, Pinochet was supposed at this time to have suffered a major deterioration making him unfit to prepare for trial.

* The Home Office belatedly realised that if Pinochet's extradition is refused, the UK must then consider under Article 7 of the United Nations Convention on Torture a prosecution in this country.

* They requested Pinochet allow the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Solicitor General to see the medical report so a decision on UK prosecution could be made. Pinochet extracted an agreement that no-one else in the Crown Prosecution Service be shown the report.

* In breach of all known practice, Pinochet's British and Chilean doctors (believed to be military) were present throughout his 5 January examination.

* The Home Office gave Pinochet in advance the full list of questions they asked the independent medical team to ascertain. This included questions about his ability to recall events in the 1970's. Apparent loss of memory in this respect is notoriously easy to fake.

* On 11 January, the Home Office officials asked Pinochet's "permission" to disclose his medical records to the Spanish, French, Swiss and Belgian governments. He refused.

Said Chile Committee for Justice spokesperson Paul May,
We demand the DPP disclose his decision on prosecuting Pinochet.
Has he informed the Metropolitan Police?
Why has he concealed the medical report from his own department?
Growing rumours say Pinochet was coached by Chilean military doctors before his examination.
Why were they allowed to be present?
What on earth is going on at the Home Office?

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