Pinochet denounces 'show trial'

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The Independent Online
AUGUSTO PINOCHET, the former Chilean dictator, hit out last night at his arrest and extradition hearings in Britain. In his first public statement on the affair, he said: "A show trial in a foreign land is not justice. It is certainly not British justice."

Meanwhile, the United States was reported to be considering whether to seek the extradition of General Pinochet in connection with four killings during his regime, including the bombing of a former Chilean ambassador in his car in Washington. According to the New York Times , US Justice Department officials have been discussing whether to seek his extradition if the House of Lords, which resumes its hearing tomorrow, rejects Spain's request for him on charges of genocide, torture and terrorism. Several other European countries have also begun extradition proceedings.

But Gen Pinochet, 82, said he would fight extradition attempts "with all my spirit". He disclosed that his wife had given him the news of his arrest as he lay in a hospital bed after an operation at the private London Clinic: "She was in tears as she tried to speak. I was hurt and bewildered."

The House of Lords is hearing an appeal by the Crown Prosecution Service, on behalf of the Spanish authorities, against a ruling by the High Court that the former Chilean leader's arrest was unlawful because he enjoys sovereign immunity. In his statement he delivered a defence of his seizure of power in 1973, concluding: "I am at peace with myself and with the Chilean people."

Recent reports of his country's history had been a "travesty of the truth" and he was the subject of "spurious attempts by foreign prosecutors to convict me on unproven charges".

Gen Pinochet said he had come to Britain as a "special ambassador" for Chile, "perhaps not specifically as the guest of the Foreign Office but with their full knowledge and co-operation."

News that the US may join the growing queue of countries seeking his extradition, however, could prolong his legal battles yet further. A Justice Department official quoted by the New York Times said: "We are discussing the extradition of Pinochet as a back-up if he gets immunity in the UK."

Apart from the deaths of the former Chilean ambassador, Orlando Letelier, and an American colleague, the Justice Department is considering the killing of two Americans who disappeared in Chile in 1993. The film Missing was based on one of them, Charles Horman.