October 25, 1998
Thousands in Chile demand Pinochet's release

                  SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) -- About 20,000 people, many
                  wearing yellow ribbons and waving flags, demanded on Saturday that Britain
                  free Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet, seen by the country's right
                  wing as a beloved father figure.

                  Led by politicians and musicians, the gathering stretched for a half mile from
                  a stage in Santiago's upscale Las Condes district.

                  Las Condes mayor Joaquin Lavin, a presidential candidate for the right-wing
                  Independent Democracy Union, called the rally the biggest in Chile this

                  The national police estimated the crowd at 18,000 to 20,000. They said 25
                  protesters were detained near the British and Spanish ambassadors'

                  Britain arrested Pinochet, 82, in a London hospital last Friday, acting on a
                  request from a Spanish judge seeking to have him extradited and prosecuted
                  on charges of genocide, torture and terrorism during his 17-year reign that
                  ended in 1990.

                  Chile has demanded his release, charging that Pinochet was unlawfully taken
                  into custody while in England for medical reasons. They contend that the
                  former army commander-in-chief, now a senator for life, has diplomatic
                  immunity and that his arrest amounted to a kidnapping.

                  'Kidnapped by foreign nation'

                  Many in the crowd held signs in support of the former dictator reading,
                  "Free Pinochet" and "Give us back Pinochet."

                  Lavin, who spearheaded the protest, said the nation is on "the most Chilean
                  of all missions: rescuing an ex-president kidnapped by a foreign nation."

                  "We are tired of being humiliated," he said. "We cannot continue to accept
                  this situation. Chile does not want to be a second-class country."

                  He then turned to Chile's presidential elections, which will be held in
                  December 1999. He slammed Socialist candidate Ricardo Lagos by
                  comparing him to Socialist President Salvador Allende, who died in the coup
                  that Pinochet led in 1973.

                  "We already had one Socialist president. We do not want another," said
                  Lavin, adding that Britain should release Pinochet out of "an act of

                  Foreign Minister Jose Miguel Insulza on Saturday recognized the possibility
                  of using Pinochet's health -- he is recovering from back surgery -- to get his

                  "We have to know in what circumstance and in what moment that
                  alternative, which the government has never ruled out, can be proposed,"
                  Insulza told reporters.

                  Others urge extradition

                  Britain has said that humanitarian factors will be considered when it makes a
                  decision on whether to extradite Pinochet to Spain.

                  Earlier Saturday, about 150 Pinochet critics gathered in Santiago's central
                  square, urged extradition, and scoffed at humanitarian pleas on behalf of the
                  former dictator.

                  "What an embarrassment. Humanitarian reasons? They make Mr. Pinochet
                  look like a victim," Gladys Marin, the head of Chile's Communist Party, told
                  the anti-Pinochet rally.

                          Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.