Pinochet in psychiatric hospital

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GENERAL AUGUSTO Pino- chet was unexpectedly moved to a psychiatric hospital yesterday, on the eve of today's bail hearing which may lead to him being freed from arrest.

An armed police escort accompanied an ambulance carrying the 82-year- old former Chilean dictator from the London Clinic in Harley Street, where he had been under arrest for 13 days, to the Grovelands Priory Hospital, in Southgate, north London.

The bail application may take place at the hospital, which is surrounded by parkland. It follows Wednesday's High Court hearing in which Lord Chief Justice Bingham and two senior judges ruled that General Pinochet's arrest and detention by the British authorities was unlawful.

The Crown Prosecution Service is appealing to the House of Lords against the judgment.

Scotland Yard said the move had taken place following examination of the general by his consultant and a police doctor. Police sources said his condition had not worsened. He will continue to be under armed guard at his new hospital while the bail application goes ahead.

Grovelands is part of the Priory group of hospitals, which is known for its treatment of psychological problems such as alcoholism and eating disorders. The group's patients have included the footballers Paul Gascoigne and Paul Merson, the actresses Caroline Aherne and Emily Lloyd, and the celebrity Paula Yates. Rooms can cost up to pounds 330 a night.

Spain's National Court met in Madrid yesterday to consider whether Judge Baltasar Garzon, who is seeking General Pinochet's extradition, has exceeded his powers. Eduardo Fungairino, the chief prosecutor of Spain's independent prosecution service, argues that Judge Garzon is not entitled to charge General Pinochet for terrorism and genocide, thus he cannot be tried in Spain. Judge Garzon has stated if the decision due today goes against him he would take the matter to a higher court.

But a legal defeat for the judge at this stage will be seen by General Pinochet's supporters as another victory against extradition following the High Court ruling.

The Conservatives yesterday continued their criticism of the Government over its handling of the Pinochet affair. But the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, whose staff had advised the Home Office the former dictator did not enjoy diplomatic immunity, denied any shortcomings.

Mr Cook said: "The Foreign Office has consistently taken the position that we want to see due process of law carried out. The ruling that the divisional court gave in the context of international law is now subject to appeal."

His German counterpart, Joschka Fischer of the Green party, praised the "independence of the English judiciary", but pointedly stated he personally felt "great satisfaction" at the former dictator's arrest.

There was growing protest in Britain and abroad yesterday about the High Court's decision. Some legal experts accused Lord Chief Justice Bingham and his two fellow judges of taking too narrow a view on the matter of immunity, and former Chilean torture victims said they were considering representations at the Lords appeal.

The American Association of Jurists argued that General Pinochet did not enjoy immunity under international law, and expressed confidence that the Lords would overturn the decision. The Swedish Prime Minister, Goran Persson, added his voice to demands that the former dictator should face trial: "It would be an important signal to the world's dictators if Pinochet was sentenced. If Pinochet walks free it would be a bad signal which would hurt belief in human rights."