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Pinochet Leaves Hospital in London

December 1, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ In an ambulance escorted by armed police, former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet left a hospital Tuesday and moved into a luxurious home to continue fighting an effort to extradite him on charges of genocide and torture.

Demonstrators shouted and shook their fists as Pinochet swept through the gates of Grovelands Priory a day after the psychiatric hospital announced that he is fit and demanded that he leave.

The hospital’s order undermined any attempt by the 83-year-old general to plead that he is too ill or frail to stand trial in Spain in the deaths and torture of political opponents during his 1973-90 rule in Chile.

With a police helicopter circling overhead, Pinochet’s ambulance convoy arrived at the Wentworth Estate, a compound of magnificent houses overlooking the fairways of the Wentworth golf course, home to the European golf tour, 20 miles west of London.

North Surrey police chief Carl Crathern confirmed that Pinochet ``is now in residence in a house on Wentworth estate.″ The identity of the owner of the house where Pinochet is being held was unclear.

Britain’s Home Secretary Jack Straw must decided by Dec. 11 whether to allow extradition proceedings to begin. If he does so, Pinochet will likely be in Britain for months fighting his case through the courts.

Straw could block Pinochet’s extradition to Spain on several grounds, including compassion.

``He showed no compassion for us, so why should we show any for him,″ said Francina Ramirez, 41, a Chilean exile outside the hospital. She said she had been arrested by Pinochet’s secret police and tortured with electric currents through her breasts.

Pinochet was arrested Oct. 16 in a central London hospital where he had undergone back surgery. He moved on Oct. 29 to Grovelands Priory, which has been trying for more than two weeks to make him leave.

In the House of Commons, Foreign Office Minister Derek Fatchett advised Britons to stay away from Chile if possible. He warned Britons living there ``to keep a low profile (and) avoid crowds, meetings, demonstrations and areas where the English-speaking community usually gathers.″

A Chilean government report says 3,197 people were murdered or disappeared at the hands of the secret police during Pinochet’s 1970-93 rule. But the Chilean government wants him back because of fears that the anger of his supporters may destabilize the country’s democracy.

Chilean Foreign Minister Jose Miguel Insulza was in Spain on Tuesday, arguing that Pinochet may be tried in Chile if he is freed.

An opinion poll published Tuesday indicated that a narrow majority _ 51 percent _ of Britons think Pinochet should be extradited.

The National Opinion poll published in London’s Evening Standard said 32 percent of a 961-strong sample of voters questioned nationwide wanted him sent home and the rest had no opinion. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.

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