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Pinochet Lawyers Question Ruling

December 5, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ Lawyers for Gen. Augusto Pinochet are seeking to overturn last week’s House of Lords ruling against the former Chilean dictator, apparently on grounds that the wife of one of the judges works for Amnesty International, the Guardian newspaper reported today.

The five-member Law Lords, Britain’s highest court, ruled Nov. 25 that Pinochet does not have immunity from arrest, meaning that he must remain in custody while Spain seeks his extradition for killings and torture by his security forces.

The 3-2 decision by the House of Lords tribunal reversed a court ruling that Pinochet’s arrest Oct. 16 was illegal because he had immunity under English law for actions taken as a foreign former head of state.

The Guardian quoted unidentified Chilean sources as saying submissions sent to the Home Office by Pinochet’s lawyers claim the position of Gillian Hoffman, wife of Lord Hoffman, ``questions the validity of the ruling.″

``They are believed to suggest that Lady Hoffman’s relationship with Amnesty could give the appearance of bias,″ the newspaper wrote.

Lord Hoffman was one of the three justices who voted against Pinochet’s quest for immunity.

The Guardian quoted a spokesman for the London-based human rights organization as saying Gillian Hoffman was an administrative assistant for Amnesty and was not involved in policy or in campaigning on the Pinochet case.

A Chilean government report says 3,197 people were murdered or disappeared during Pinochet’s 1973-90 rule after he overthrew Salvador Allende, an elected Marxist.

Pinochet must appear before Bow Street Magistrates’ Court in London Dec. 11, the deadline by which Home Secretary Jack Straw must decide whether extradition proceedings can go ahead.

Pinochet’s best hope is that Straw will block the Spanish extradition proceedings, which would mean that extradition requests lodged by Switzerland, France and other countries also would likely fall away.

Pinochet underwent back surgery Oct. 9 during a regular visit to Britain and was arrested in his hospital bed. He later was moved to a north London hospital, then was moved Tuesday under police escort to a rented house.

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