Pinochet Ruling: Pinochet 'ready to fight' and looking for house in country

The General's Lifestyle
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The Independent Online
GENERAL PINOCHET remained last night at the Grovelands Priory Hospital in Southgate, north London, where he has stayed, on police bail, for the past few weeks.

Supporters of the former dictator insisted that he was sick and frail. But just how ill was impossible to say.

An ambulance had been on hand to transport him to a Chilean Air Force jet waiting at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, had the law lords decided in his favour. As it was, the ambulance left the hospital without him.

The Chilean authorities were refusing to comment on the issue of the general's health. "I'm sorry, that is something we are simply not allowed to talk about," said an embassy spokesman in London.

But the general was certainly well enough to receive visitors yesterday. Throughout the day, a number of visitors - believed to be London-based Chilean officials - arrived at the hospital.

During the morning his daughter, Lucia, arrived to visit her father on his birthday.

Yesterday evening he was visited by another friend, Hernan Larrain, a right-wing member of the Chilean parliament. "He was composed, ready to go on. He said it is not easy to beat him," Mr Larrain said after his visit.

Yesterday, it was reported that the general's friends were looking for a house for him to rent in the countryside while the extradition proceedings go ahead.

General Pinochet came to London, one of his favourite cities, for surgery to his back. He had been recovering at the London Clinic when he was arrested on 16 October by officers from the Metropolitan Police at the request of the Spanish authorities.

He was kept under armed guard at the hospital in central London, apparently unaware he was in police custody. His wife told Spanish newspapers at the time: "If Augusto finds out what is really happening, he will die of rage."

The Chilean deputy Pablo Longueira said while visiting General Pinochet that the truth was being kept from him for fear it might hinder his recovery.

Police patrolled the pavements outside to keep watch on demonstrators who gathered there - until 28 October when the High Court refused the Spanish extradition request. At this point he transferred to the Grovelands.

General Pinochet had originally flown to Britain at the beginning of October, taking in a visit to Madame Tussaud's and Fortnum & Mason.

He also took the opportunity to visit to his old ally Baroness Thatcher, with whom he took afternoon tea.