Pinochet could be tried in Britain

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The Independent Online
THE SPANISH judge seeking to extradite Augusto Pinochet to Spain has said he will co- operate in seeing the former Chilean dictator tried in Britain, should Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, decide not to grant his extradition request.

After last week's decision by the law lords to reduce greatly the number of charges against the general, Judge Baltasar Garzon has insisted, in documents sent to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), he still wants General Pinochet, 83, to be tried in Spain.

But he grants British legal authorities access to all the documents in the case "so they can proceed in England against Senator Pinochet if the extradition process is discontinued".

Judge Garzon's gesture came in response to a request made on Friday by the CPS for permission to allow British police to go through all the evidence submitted from Spain. He said that if extradition was blocked he "would have no legal objection to the case being prosecuted in England, if English laws permit".

Judge Garzon drastically reworked his case against General Pinochet after the law lords decided last Wednesday to throw out most of the charges. By a 6-1 majority, they called for the general's case to be reconsidered as they cut the number of human rights charges upon which he could be extradited.

The judge has submitted details of 40 cases of torture and death that occurred after the 29 September 1988 watershed - the date Britain recognised torture as a universal crime - and before General Pinochet stood down in 1990.

To the eight cases contained in the original indictment, Judge Garzon has added 32 new ones to support the charges of torture and conspiracy to torture. Among them are those of Manuel Canales, who had electrodes placed against his temple and against a testicle during interrogation; and of Pablo Apablaza, who was illegally detained and blindfolded, and had an empty pistol fired three times against his head, and electric current applied to his genitals.

In addition, Judge Garzon has reminded British prosecutors of 1,198 forced disappearances that remain unresolved: "a permanent, live crime" that qualifies as torture under the 1992 UN Declaration on the Protection of Disappeared Persons. Lawyers close to Judge Garzon emphasise that the reduced number of charges imposed by the law lords in no way lessens the force of the case against the general.

Mr Straw has until 15 April to rule on whether extradition should proceed. Even if he decides to go no further, most Spaniards believe that General Pinochet's reputation lies in ruins and that no dictator can now escape justice. Judge Garzon, they feel, has already won.

General Pinochet himself remains under house arrest in Surrey, with his legal team claiming that he is condemned to a "custodial limbo".