LONDON (Reuters) -- Former U.S. President George Bush has called for
ex-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to be freed from house arrest in
Britain and allowed to return home, the Times newspaper reported on
The newspaper said Bush's remarks came in a letter to Lord Lamont, an
opposition Conservative member of Britain's upper parliamentary chamber,
the House of Lords.
Bush said the case against the former dictator was a "travesty of justice"
added: "General Pinochet should be returned to Chile as soon as possible."
A Spanish judge sought Pinochet's extradition to face trial on charges
murder, torture and hostage-taking of over 3,000 people, dozens of them
Spaniards, during witchhunts against leftists in the 1970s and 1980s.
British Home Secretary (interior minister) Jack Straw is expected to decide
by April 15 whether extradition proceedings against Pinochet should start
after Britain's top court ruled -- for the second time -- that his arrest in
London last October 16 was legal.
Since his arrest, Pinochet has been under house arrest near London.
Last month's decision by the Law Lords, as the court is called, said Pinochet
could only face extradition to Spain on charges of torture after 1988, when
Britain incorporated an international torture convention into law.
The same convention says prosecutors can consider filing charges in Britain
if an accused torturer is not extradited.
Straw said last December 9 that extradition proceedings against Pinochet,
who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, could begin.
But he agreed to reconsider this after the Law Lords' ruling, which by
focusing on the 1988 cut-off date dramatically reduced the number of draft
charges against Pinochet.
Only three of 32 draft charges which Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon initially
sent to Britain -- one torture charge and two charges of conspiracy to
torture -- involved events after 1988.
Recently, the Spanish judge sent to Britain details of over 40 more torture
cases dating from after 1988.
Copyright 1999 Reuters.