Protesters Seek Pinochet Trial
Oct. 24, 1998
LONDON (AP) _ More than 150 protesters gathered Saturday at the London hospital where former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is under arrest to demand that he be tried for genocide.
A visiting Chilean senator said Pinochet's health is deteriorating.
In driving wind and rain, protesters beat drums and tamborines and chanted, ``We want justice'' outside the private London Clinic, where Pinochet, 82, is recovering from back surgery while his lawyers fight a Spanish extradition warrant.
Protesters included 35 Chilean exiles who traveled from France. Others came from Switzerland, Sweden and Spain.
Pinochet was arrested Oct. 16 at the instigation of a Spanish magistrate seeking to extradite him on charges of genocide, terrorism and torture.
The Spanish warrant cited 94 victims, but could be broadened to include some 3,000 people who were killed or disappeared during his 17-year-rule.
Pinochet, whose rule was marked by human rights abuses and a climate of fear, had surgery Oct. 9 for a herniated disc, a painful spinal disorder which had hindered his movement and the Chilean government has urged Britain to release him on humanitarian grounds.
Chilean senator Ignacio Perez-Walker told reporters outside the clinic after visiting Pinochet Saturday that the former leader ``is a very strong man.''
``However, his health appears very, very detiorated,'' said Perez-Walker. ``We spoke very briefly and he was very calm,'' he said, adding that Pinochet was only informed 48 hours ago that he was under arrest.
Chile has also argued that Pinochet, as a senator, is entitled to diplomatic immunity.
On Friday night, Pinochet's wife appealed for his release, saying he is too sick to be stand trial.
``This is very painful for our family,'' a tearful Lucia Pinochet told a Chilean TV crew outside a Roman Catholic church in London, where she had been to pray.
``I would like to ask for compassion for a person who is very, very, very, ill.''
She said many Chileans support her husband, who is recovering slowly. ''Everybody has expressed a lot of loyalty and warmth, if there have been any wrong things they have just been emotional reactions,'' she said.
''I would say despite the fact that he can't defend himself because he's in bed and very sick, he still has the strength that all Chileans know him for and he is now thanking them through me and later he will do it personally,'' she said.
Lawyers for the former strongman went to court Friday to argue that British police acted illegally in accepting the Spanish warrant. The case resumes Monday.
Pinochet ruled from 1973 until 1990 but remained army commander until last March. Then, he moved to congress as a senator for life, as permitted by the constitution his regime drafted.