Britain Arrests Chile's Pinochet
By The Associated Press
LONDON (AP) --
Former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet,
whose 17-year rule was marked by human rights abuses and a climate of
fear, was under arrest Saturday in the deaths, detention and torture of
a Spanish extradition warrant, British police arrested
Pinochet on Friday for questioning about allegations that he murdered an
unidentified number of Spaniards in Chile between Sept. 11, 1973, the
year he seized power, and Dec. 31, 1983. No reason for the dates was
Chile said it
would protest to British authorities, arguing that the
82-year-old senator-for-life has diplomatic immunity. But Britain said he
does not, and Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said it was ``a matter for
the magistrates and the police.''
ruthless regime ended eight years ago and was widely
criticized for its human rights record, was recovering from surgery in a
London clinic when he was held Friday night.
No hearing date has been set.
refused to reveal Pinochet's whereabouts, but his Santiago
spokesman, Fernando Martinez, said he was in a London clinic when
police came for him. A regular visitor to Britain, Pinochet underwent
surgery Oct. 9 for a herniated disc, a spinal disorder that has caused him
pain and hampered his walking in recent months.
in flak jackets accompanied by a support vehicle were
stationed outside the London Clinic in central London where he is
rumored to be. Official at the clinic refused to comment.
In a statement
issued in Porto, Portugal, where President Eduardo Frei
was attending the Ibero American summit, the Chilean government said it
is ``filing a formal protest with the British government for what it considers
a violation of the diplomatic immunity which Sen. Pinochet enjoys.''
read by acting foreign minister Mariano Fernandez,
demanded ``that steps be taken to allow an early end of this situation.''
Chile has previously said it does not recognize the authority of foreign
courts over incidents within Chile.
Minister Abel Matutes, also attending the Ibero
American summit, said his government ``respects the decisions taken by
British law recognizes
two types of immunity: state immunity, which
covers heads of state and government members on official visits, and
diplomatic immunity for persons accredited as diplomats.
a lawmaker from Britain's governing Labor Party,
applauded the arrest. ``It will be the first time this ghastly dictator has
faced questions,'' he told Sky television. ``He is one of the great
murderers of this century.''
of the human rights group Amnesty International, which
has frequently criticized Pinochet, said the British government was ``under
obligation to take legal action'' against him.
It was not clear
which clinic was treating Pinochet, who turns 83 next
week. Staff at the London Bridge Hospital, where he reportedly had
surgery, refused to comment. He has a pacemaker and hearing aid, but is
generally in good health.
one of two Spanish magistrates handling investigations
into human rights violations in Chile and Argentina, filed a request to
question Pinochet on Wednesday, a day after another judge, Manuel
Garcia Castellon, filed a similar petition.
into murder, torture and disappearances in Chile during
Pinochet's regime began in 1996. Garzon is also investigating the
disappearance of hundreds of Spanish citizens in Argentina during the
1976-83 military dictatorships.
Pinochet is implicated
in Garzon's probe through his involvement in
``Operation Condor,'' in which military regimes in Chile, Argentina and
Uruguay coordinated anti-leftist campaigns
son of a customs clerk who ousted elected President
Salvador Allende in a bloody 1973 coup, remained commander-in-chief
of the Chilean army until March, when he was sworn in as a
senator-for-life, a post established for him in a constitution drafted by his
While in power
he also pushed through an amnesty covering crimes
committed before 1978, when most of his human rights abuses allegedly
took place. One official report says 3,197 political opponents died during
his term and 1,102 people remain unaccounted for after being detained by
his security agents.