I'm a kidnap victim, says Pinochet

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The Independent Online
GENERAL AUGUSTO Pinochet sparked fresh controversy yesterday after he allegedly accused the Government of plotting to kidnap him and hold him illegally in Britain.

In an interview with the Sunday Mirror, conducted through an associate, he said he was the victim of treason after having been invited to Britain by the Government. He said Tony Blair was untrustworthy.

Last night, there was confusion over the interview after an adviser to the general said he had not made such comments. The newspaper said it stood by its story. In the interview, conducted through the former Chilean finance minister Sergio De Castro, General Pinochet said: "I am the victim of a treason. I was invited to Britain by the Government and I was officially received by the British government.

"Now I know all the time they were plotting behind my back to arrest me in an illegal action under international law. They have kidnapped me and are now holding me illegally against my will." He added: "The men behind this are no more than criminals. Jack Straw is no more than a kidnapper in that sense. And how can Tony Blair ever be trusted? He is untrustworthy."

General Pinochet, fighting extradition to Spain, where he is accused of genocide, said he had lost faith in the British justice system. He also complained about the conditions he is living under while on bail.

Later, in a statement, Patrick Robertson, adviser to General Pinochet, said: "The sentiments expressed by Sergio De Castro are his own, and Senator Pinochet has no comment now or in the near future about the circumstances surrounding his detention."

Colin Myler, editor of the Sunday Mirror said: "I am astonished. There is absolutely no doubt that Sergio De Castro spoke to Senator Pinochet on behalf of the Sunday Mirror."

Last week, General Pinochet appeared before Belmarsh magistrates in south London as extradition proceedings began. The 83-year-old general said he did not recognise the court's authority.

It was also claimed yesterday that British officials in Madrid had warned General Pinochet not to visit Britain because he might be arrested. He was arrested in October after arriving for a back operation. Before he was arrested he took tea with his old ally Baroness Thatcher.

A Foreign Office spokesman said last night: "We are quite clear that no such warning was passed to the Chilean embassy in Madrid. The embassy has no knowledge of any embassy official confirming that any such warning was given."

Tomorrow, lawyers acting for General Pinochet will appeal to the House of Lords against the decision by the five law lords that the general was not immune from prosecution. His lawyers will say the decision suffered a risk of perceived bias because Lord Hoffmann, one of the lords who voted against General Pinochet, has links to Amnesty International, which has campaigned for the general's extradition. Lady Hoffmann has worked for the group since 1976.

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