LONDON (CNN) -- A British newspaper is reporting that former
Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was invited to visit London by the
British defense ministry before his arrest October 16.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that before Pinochet's visit, Chile's military
attaché sought and received assurances from both the defense and foreign
ministries that Pinochet would not be detained if he came to Britain, as he
The defense ministry had invited a Chilean delegation to Britain to buy
military engineering equipment, paid for their airfare and arranged their
itinerary. Pinochet was part of the delegation, although a spokesman for the
defense ministry told the Telegraph that British officials "did not regard
General Pinochet as the head of the delegation."
Pinochet was detained by British police on charges of genocide brought
Spanish judges who are pursuing Pinochet's extradition. The charges stem
from the disappearances of Spanish citizens during Pinochet's rule.
Wednesday, England's High Court threw out the Spanish warrants seeking
Pinochet's extradition, ruling he was immune from prosecution as a former
head of state. That ruling will be appealed to a five-judge panel at the House
of Lords, the highest court in the land.
In the meantime, Pinochet has been granted conditional bail by a British
judge, though he cannot leave the country until the appeal is settled.
Belgian suit alleges crimes against humanity
On Saturday, six Chilean citizens in Brussels filed lawsuits with a Belgian
court against Pinochet, alleging crimes against humanity.
"Mothers are still crying for their lost children," said Rosario Lilian
Diaz, who says her husband was killed during the Pinochet years. "Not
having seen the corpse of your own husband, brother or child is one of the
most horrible things that could happen to you."
Lawyers in Britain, Italy, France, Sweden and Luxembourg are also
pursuing cases against Pinochet.
In London, Pinochet's wife, Lucia Hiriart, held a brief news conference
Saturday. She said she hoped the general, who underwent spinal surgery
while in London and is still recovering at a clinic, would be able to return
soon to Chile.
"The health of my husband is recovering very slowly because of the situation
he is in," a frail-looking Hiriart said.
Hiriart, who refused to discuss her husband's legal situation, told reporters,
"I feel very weak physically and mentally.
"The last few days have been very sad for me. Even my own health
physically and mentally has been damaged," she said in Spanish.
She was quoted Friday in a Chilean newspaper as asking that "pressure be
made through the governments of the world so he can be released....
Humanitarian reasons should take precedence over anything else."
Spanish court OKs extradition pursuit
In an historic ruling Friday, an 11-member panel of senior Spanish judges
ruled unanimously Friday that Spain had the right to bring criminal charges
against Pinochet and seek his extradition from Britain. The panel deliberated
for more than five hours.
The National Court's decision was greeted with cheers of joy from
human rights lawyers and relatives of junta victims who had gathered at the
court in downtown Madrid.
"It's an immense homage to the disappeared of Chile and Argentina,"
said Carlos Slepoy, a lawyer representing families of Argentine
victims. "From a legal point of view, it's a landmark decision."
The National Court didn't give the reasons for its ruling but said a full
would be released next week.
The Spanish ruling allows Judge Baltasar Garzon to continue his
investigations into whether Pinochet committed genocide, terrorism and
torture during his military dictatorship between 1973 and 1990.
A ruling to the contrary would have ended Garzon's drive to extradite
Pinochet from Britain.
Garzon plans to file a formal request next week for Pinochet's extradition,
said Virginia Diez, part of a team of private human rights lawyers who have
worked closely with Garzon in the Pinochet case.
It must first be approved by the government of center-right Prime Minister
Jose Maria Aznar, which is eager to protect trade ties with Chile and has
frowned on Garzon's probe.
However, Aznar and other Spanish government officials have said they
wouldn't block a request for Pinochet's extradition.
The National Court ruling Friday was in response to appeals filed in May
prosecutors at the same court who said Garzon lacked jurisdiction in Latin
America to probe crimes committed against Spain.
Garzon also has issued arrest warrants against former Argentine military
leaders Leopoldo Galtieri and Jorge Videla, accused of the murders of
hundreds of Spaniards in the 1970s and 1980s.
France to investigate
France on Friday became the latest European country to open an
investigation into alleged atrocities by Pinochet, judicial officials said.
Prosecutors were investigating charges by French families of missing
Chileans that Pinochet was linked to their loved ones' "sequestration
followed by torture," the officials said. The probe, launched Friday, will
determine whether enough evidence and legal grounds exist to prosecute
Pinochet on French soil.
Reuters contributed to this report.