Pinochet Judge Has Amnesty Link
LONDON (AP) _ In a new twist in the tug-of-war over Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Amnesty International acknowledged Tuesday that a judge who ruled the former Chilean dictator does not have immunity from arrest is the director of its charitable foundation.
The report came as emotions were rising over whether Britain should extradite Pinochet to Spain to face charges of genocide and torture.
Widows of Chilean policemen killed by ``Marxist terrorists″ chanted ``Take your hands out of Chile!″ in English outside Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Downing Street office Tuesday, demanding the release of the 83-year-old general.
Amnesty International announced a mass laying of white flowers in London on Thursday for the victims of Pinochet’s 1973-90 rule.
The London-based human rights group also said that South African-born Lord Justice Leonard Hoffmann, the unpaid director of its fundraising arm, had nothing to do with the group’s long campaign to have Pinochet brought to trial.
The controversy erupted as Friday’s deadline neared for Home Secretary Jack Straw to decide whether extradition proceedings can go ahead following the 3-2 ruling Nov. 25 against Pinochet by five judges of Britain’s highest court, the House of Lords.
Pinochet, not seen in public since his Oct. 16 arrest on a Spanish warrant, awaited the verdict under police guard in a rented mansion at Wentworth, 20 miles west of London.
Some 90 Pinochet supporters handed in a petition Tuesday at Blair’s office.
``We are widows of members of the armed forces and policemen that were killed in terrorist attacks by Marxist terrorist groups in Chile,″ said Veronica Vallejos, who handed in a letter on behalf of 700 families urging Britain to send Pinochet home. ``We want reconciliation in Chile.″
A Chilean government report says 3,197 people were murdered or disappeared at the hands of the secret police after Pinochet overthrew Salvador Allende, an elected Marxist. But Chile’s government wants him back, partly to avoid exacerbating domestic tensions, which could threaten the country’s newly built democracy.
Amnesty International said Hoffmann, 64, an opponent of apartheid who settled in Britain in the `60s, has served since 1990 as director and chairman of Amnesty International Charity Ltd. His wife, Gillian, also a South African, is a secretary in Amnesty International’s press office in London.
Amnesty spokeswoman Soraya Bermejo said Pinochet supporters raised the issue of Hoffman just to divert attention from the basic issue of whether Pinochet should be tried on heinous charges.
``There are many lawyers who have links with human rights organizations,″ she added.
Hoffmann made no comment, but opposition Conservative Party legislators said he should apologize.
``Surely it is unacceptable for a judge to sit on a case in which he is connected with an organization, however admirable, that is playing a prominent and active part in a case?″ Norman Lamont, a former Tory Cabinet minister asked in a letter to the head of the judiciary, Lord Derry Irvine.
In the Pinochet case, the judges _ in an unusual move _ allowed lawyers for Amnesty International to make representations.