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The Financial Times , 23.10.99

PINOCHET: The legal fight continues. By John Mason in London

Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, yesterday chose to stay in the UK to continue his legal fight against extradition to Spain rather than risk asking the British government to be allowed home on grounds of ill-health.

Lawyers for General Pinochet submitted a last-minute appeal to the High Court against the decision by a London magistrates' court earlier this month that he should be extradited to Madrid to stand trial accused of torture.

The move is regarded as highly significant by observers of the case.

Pinochet aides had previously suggested he might waive all rights to further legal appeals to ask Jack Straw, the British home secretary, to consider releasing him on compassionate grounds.

Gen Pinochet has recently suffered two minor strokes and is also believed to have heart and kidney problems. However, his decision to continue fighting in the British courts is widely regarded as an implicit admission by his advisers that his health has yet to decline enough to risk appealing to Mr Straw on compassionate grounds.

Gen Pinochet now faces the prospect of several months under house arrest while the High Court and possibly the House of Lords, the UK's most senior court, consider his extradition.

It is widely thought that he could not be extradited to Spain before Easter at the earliest.

Amnesty International, the human rights group, said the judicial process should be allowed to continue free from political pressures. A spokesman said: "Pinochet's appeal is a legitimate part of a legal process which, while denied to 3,197 acknowledged victims of murder and disappearance in Chile, is rightfully available to Gen Pinochet."

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