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Pinochet Leaves Hospital in London

December 1, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ Under heavy police guard, Gen. Augusto Pinochet was spirited out of a north London hospital on Tuesday and driven to a country estate to await a government decision on whether to extradite him.

An ambulance carrying the former Chilean dictator swept though the gates of Grovelands Priory as demonstrators shook their fists and chanted ``We want justice.″

The psychiatric hospital announced Monday that the 83-year-old general, wanted for questioning in Spain on charges of genocide and torture, no longer needs medical care, and demanded that he leave.

An hour after it left the hospital, the white ambulance with blacked-out windows arrived at Wentworth estate in Surrey, 20 miles west of central London.

A police helicopter circled overhead as the convoy drew into the estate of huge homes set on private grounds _ many of them overlooking the Wentworth Golf Club, home of the European golf tour.

Dozens of police took up positions at roads leading onto the grounds. It was not immediately clear who owns the home where Pinochet is staying.

Monday’s statement by the hospital, where Pinochet has been since Oct. 29, dealt a blow to any plan he had to plead he is too ill to be extradited.

If British Home Secretary Jack Straw allows extradition proceedings to begin, Pinochet will likely be in Britain for months fighting his case through the courts. Straw, who must rule by Dec. 11, could block extradition 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 who was protesting outside the hospital. She said she was arrested by Pinochet’s secret police and tortured.

Wherever he stays, Pinochet’s neighbors face similar disruption from demonstrators and a heavy police presence.

Earlier, his lawyer said Pinochet was distressed by the hospital’s demand that he leave. He had planned to move on Monday, but the arrangement fell through because of ``unforeseen practical difficulties,″ said lawyer Michael Caplan.

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.

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 Chile is trying to win Pinochet’s return because of fears that the anger of his supporters may destabilize its democracy.

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

``The possibility of a trial in Chile exists and gets larger every day,″ Insulza said. He denied, however, that a deal was in the works to guarantee a trial in Chile if Britain lets the former dictator go home.

In Britain’s House of Commons, Foreign Office Minister Derek Fatchett warned Britons to stay away from Chile unless it is essential to go there.

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