From Herald Staff and Wire Reports
WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration has no hard evidence that former
Chilean President Augusto Pinochet is responsible for crimes for which he would
be subject to extradition to the United States, U.S. officials said Monday.
The officials commented following disclosure that informal discussions
at the Justice Department to determine whether there was a basis for a U.S. effort
to extradite Pinochet if the Spanish initiative fails.
Pinochet is under police guard in Britain pending a review by the House
of a Spanish request for his extradition on genocide charges.
When the Spanish extradition request was filed last month, the United States
no comment except to say it was a matter to be decided by Spanish and British
legal and governmental authorities.
The Miami Herald reported Saturday that officials in the Justice Department,
National Security Council and State Department were discussing the possibility of
seeking Pinochet's extradition. The discussions about Pinochet focused on the
1976 assassination on a Washington street of Orlando Letelier, a leftist Chilean
opponent of Pinochet, and an American associate of Letelier.
A U.S. investigation at the time concluded that the conspiracy to kill
involved eight people, including the chief of Pinochet's secret police. But last week
Lawrence Barcella, the former prosecutor in the case, told The Herald it was
``inconceivable'' that Pinochet was not involved.
In London, meanwhile, lawyers fighting Pinochet's extradition to Spain
Britain's highest court that Chile alone should be allowed to decide his fate.
Attorney Clare Montgomery warned that Pinochet's arrest and detention
threatened the stability of Chile and, therefore, that the panel of five Law Lords
must strike a ``delicate balance'' between demands for justice and Chile's need for
``We submit that your lordships will be expressing a view on the internal
arrangements which assured a peaceful transition to democracy,'' Montgomery
She noted that at least 11 lawsuits are pending against Pinochet in Chile,
from the death or disappearance of more than 3,000 people during his 17-year
rule, and that the courts there should determine whether he is entitled to immunity
as a senator for life.
``Countries must be allowed to arrange their own affairs,'' Montgomery
adding that to deny Pinochet immunity would be to encourage future despots to
remain in power.
Herald staff writer Frank Davies in Washington contributed to this report.
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