December 12, 1998
Untrustworthy Britain kidnapped me, Pinochet says


                  LONDON, Dec 12 (Reuters) -- Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet
                  has accused Britain of kidnapping him and described Prime Minister Tony
                  Blair as untrustworthy in a newspaper interview to be published on Sunday.

                  Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, in an agreed interview through former Chilean
                  finance minister Sergio De Castro, Pinochet said he was the victim of
                  "treason" and had been invited to Britain by the government.

                  "Now I know all the time they were plotting behind my back to arrest me in an
                  illegal action under international law," a press notice from the paper quoted
                  him as saying.

                  "They have kidnapped me and are holding me illegally against my will."

                  On Friday, the general was forced to appear at a London magistrates court--
                  the first step in extradition proceedings brought against the former dictator by
                  a Spanish judge.

                  Speaking in a weak and hesitant voice, a wheelchair-bound Pinochet told the
                  British magistrate who remanded him on bail: "I do not recognise the
                  jurisdiction of any other court except in my own country to try me against the
                  lies of Spain."

                  Spain wants Pinochet extradited to face charges of genocide, torture and
                  terrorism relating to his 17-year dictatorship. More than 3,000 people died or
                  disappeared during his rule from 1973 to 1990, including Spanish citizens.

                  The Sunday Mirror said Pinochet, in his interview with the paper, called British
                  Home Secretary (interior minister) Jack Straw a kidnapper.

                  "And how can Tony Blair ever be trusted? He is untrustworthy," the paper
                  quoted him as saying.

                  Straw last week ruled that Spain's extradition request could proceed, upholding
                  a decision by Britain's top court of appeal that the 83 year-old general was not
                  immune from prosecution.

                  Pinochet was arrested at a London hospital on October 16 while recovering
                  from back surgery. A court ruled that the general, as a Chilean senator,
                  enjoyed immunity but that was overruled by law lords in the House of Lords.

                  "I've become disillusioned with the British legal system," Pinochet told the

                  He also bemoaned the state of the house, west of London, where he must stay
                  while extradition proceedings grind on.

                  "I've got to live in two small rooms and I wasn't even allowed into the garden.
                  It can be very depressing," the Sunday Mirror quoted him as saying.

                  The magistrate who saw Pinochet on Friday relaxed his bail conditions to
                  allow him to walk in the garden of the rented mansion on an exclusive estate
                  bordering Wentworth golf club.

                  After his Friday court appearance, Pinochet proclaimed his innocence in a
                  letter read out in Santiago by his one-time interior minister Carlos Caceres
                  which said he had no blood on his hands.

                  "I am absolutely innocent of all the crimes and deeds of which they irrationally
                  accuse me," said the 13-page letter, portraying the former head of state as a
                  soldier who had served his country, a saviour who rescued Chile from the
                  "anti-religion" of communism and a martyr who will unite Chileans through his

                  Chile on Friday stepped up its campaign to have Pinochet returned home,
                  suspending all official visits with Britain and Spain on Friday and asking
                  airlines to halt flights from Chile to the British-held Falkland (Malvinas)

                    Copyright 1998 Reuters.