Pinochet `ordered 4,000 killings'

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GENERAL Augusto Pinochet was responsible for the deaths of "at least 4,000 people" and sent agents to Spain to "seek out and kill" political opponents, the High Court in London was told yesterday.

The extent of the former Chilean dictator's alleged involvement in genocide and human rights violations was spelt out as lawyers for the Crown Prosecution Service argued the case against the general's plea for judicial review of his detention and a writ of habeas corpus to secure his release.

As the case unfolded, it emerged last night that Switzerland is backing Spain's allegations against the general and is also asking for his extradition in connection with the disappearance in 1977 of a Swiss-Chilean student. Last night, a spokesman for Interpol in London said an extradition warrant had been received from the Swiss authorities.

In an extraordinary day of evidence at the High Court Alun Jones, QC, said that General Pinochet was accused of illegal detentions, abductions, torture, murder and disappearances of citizens of Chile as well as Spain, UK, the United States and Argentina. His claims were made before a packed court, which included victims of Pinochet's regime.

The 82-year-old dictator was detained at the request of Spain on 16 October at the London Clinic, in Harley Street, where he was recovering from surgery.

Mr Jones told Lord Chief Justice Bingham, sitting with Mr Justice Collins and Mr Justice Richards, that fresh evidence against General Pinochet was arriving before the Home Secretary every day.

Clive Nicholls, QC, for General Pinochet, argued that as a former head of state he was immune from arrest - and that if his extradition was lawful, then the Queen could theoretically face arrest abroad for alleged crimes by Britain in the Falklands and Ireland.

The QC continued: "An attempt to deny Senator Pinochet immunity will open up the prospect of the Queen being extradited from America to Argentina for the murder of Argentinian nationals killed in the Falklands or to Ireland for the murder of Irish citizens in Gibraltar. Former president Gorbachev visiting this country may become vulnerable to process of extradition from the government of Latvia for acts they can say he was responsible for in Estonia."

A Chilean air force jet, carrying a medical team and equipment, is waiting at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, to take General Pinochet back to Chile should the High Court rule his detention unlawful.

He remains under police guard in hospital while a Spanish judge investigating his 1973-1990 military regime prepares a formal bid for his extradition.

Further evidence yesterday included details of General Pinochet's alleged personal involvement in the campaign of violence against opponents of his military junta which took place while he was in Madrid for the funeral of General Franco. The court was told of attacks in Rome as well as the US in which a former Chilean diplomat was blown up in his car.

Yesterday's events were the beginning of the prolonged judicial process which will decide whether the general faces extradition to Spain on charges of torture and mass murder.

General Pinochet's legal team maintained that as he was a Chilean and not a Spanish national, British and Spanish courts had no jurisdiction over the matter. Mr Nicholls said: "This does not raise the spectre of a future Hitler going unpunished." The possible proper venue for such a case, he said, would be an international tribunal.

Mr Jones, for the CPS, dismissed the notion that the Queen could be liable for arrest while abroad as she was a serving monarch which could not be equated with that of the position of a retired head of state.

Arguing that General Pinochet should not be allowed to claim immunity, Mr Jones said: "The functions of a president of Chile does not include the systematic torture and elimination of his political opponents.

"The functions of a head of state do not involve that. If they did that the law would be truly absurd."

The hearing continues today.

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