Chile protests Pinochet arrest in London
LONDON (CNN) -- While British police kept former Chilean dictator
Gen. Augusto Pinochet under arrest on murder charges Saturday, the
government of Chile filed a formal protest and demanded that Britain "take
whatever steps necessary to end this situation."
The Chilean government said Saturday that Pinochet's arrest violated his
diplomatic immunity. The 82-year-old former general still holds a lifetime
seat in his country's senate, and had traveled to London under a diplomatic
Pinochet was recovering from minor surgery in a London hospital Friday
when police arrested him on a Spanish extradition warrant, a Scotland Yard
The warrant charges that between September 11, 1973, the year he seized
power, and December 31, 1983, Pinochet murdered Spanish citizens in
Pinochet's press secretary in Santiago said the general was being held
London clinic where he underwent surgery for a herniated disc on October
9. No hearing date has been set.
Spain probes murder, disappearances of citizens
In Spain, two separate investigations are looking into human rights violations
against Spaniards in Chile and Argentina.
A probe by magistrate Manuel Garcia Castellon covers alleged murder,
torture and disappearances in Chile during Pinochet's regime.
A second investigation, by Judge Baltasar Garzon, focuses on "Operation
Condor," in which military regimes in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay
coordinated anti-leftist campaigns. Hundreds of Spanish citizens allegedly
disappeared in Argentina during 1976-83 military dictatorships.
The Spanish judges' petitions to question Pinochet are based on the
European Convention on Terrorism which requires signatories to cooperate
with each others' judicial processes in cases of terrorism, according to Juan
Garces, a lawyer involved in the Spanish investigation into human rights
violations in Chile.
Chile does not recognize international courts
Chile's ambassador to London said he will seek the release of Pinochet,
citing his diplomatic status. "What we must do is make it clear that Mr.
Pinochet is a senator, who travels with a diplomatic passport," said
Ambassador Mario Artaza. The Chilean government has previously said that
it does not recognize the authority of international courts over situations that
occurred in Chile.
Earlier this year, Pinochet took his seat as a lifelong senator in Chile,
he wrote into the country's constitution. As a senator his is immune from
prosecution under Chilean law.
Admirers say he saved the country from the grip of communism, but
opponents despise him for the iron-fisted tactics he used to oust Socialist
President Salvador Allende in a coup in 1973.
Imposing authoritarian right-wing rule, Pinochet banned political parties
shut congress, implemented a curfew for more than a decade and
persecuted known leftists.
Around 3,000 people reportedly died or vanished during his 17-year rule.
Tens of thousand of others fled the country out of fear of the military.
Pinochet only returned the country to democratic rule after he won less
50 percent of the vote in a nationwide plebiscite.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.