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Chile: Pinochet To Get Medical Test

November 5, 1999

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ The British government has agreed to order new medical checks on Gen. Augusto Pinochet to decide whether the former Chilean dictator should be released from extradition proceedings due to poor health, the government said Friday.

British Home Secretary Jack Straw told the Chilean embassy in London of the decision, according to Foreign Minister Juan Gabriel Valdes.

Straw’s office would not confirm or deny the decision.

A British magistrate ruled Oct. 8 that Pinochet can be extradited to Spain to stand trial for alleged human rights abuses during his reign. Pinochet’s lawyers appealed, opening to way to legal battles that may last months or even years.

The Britain government said no dateline exists for the medical tests and a decision, the Chilean Foreign Ministry said.

Straw’s letter was apparently in response to Chile’s formal request on Oct. 14 to Britain to release the former dictator because of his deteriorating health. The retired general, who will turn 84 on Nov. 25, ``is clearly in no condition to endure a long extradition trial,″ the government said at the time.

Before requesting clemency for Pinochet, the Chilean government had sought his release arguing that he had immunity from prosecution and that foreign courts had no jurisdiction in his case. Neither of those arguments, however, brought Pinochet home.

After all legal options are exhausted, Straw must approve extradition.

Pinochet was recovering from back surgery at a London clinic when he was arrested on Oct. 16, 1998, on a warrant by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, who wants to try him for alleged human rights abuses during his 1973-1990 rule in Chile. He has been under police custody in London ever since.

According to an official report by the civilian government that succeeded Pinochet, some 3,197 people were killed or disappeared during his dictatorship.

Pinochet relinquished power in 1990, and became a senator for life. He is widely protected from prosecution at home by an amnesty law he issued.

The former dictator is known to have diabetes, carry a pacemaker and suffer from arthritis to his left leg. Doctors also recently disclosed that he suffered two mild strokes in September.

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