The Pinochet Affair: Chilean exiles move to make Pinochet pay

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The Independent Online
A PRIVATE legal campaign by Chilean nationals living in Britain to bring General Augusto Pinochet to trial in England on criminal charges was launched in London yesterday.

Pinochet will now face charges of murder and torture laid by a group of Chileans in London who include Carlos Reyes, a photographer who was himself severely tortured in 1973 and 1974 at the hands of the army.

The group, some of whom were tortured by the General's troops and police in the months following his coup d'etat in Santiago against the civilian government of Salvador Allende, said they wanted him to strand trial before "a British court so that in a country with an unrivalled tradition for fairness and fair play for both the prosecution and the defence in a criminal trial these very grave accusations can now be fully tested".

James Mason, a well-known London barrister, has been instructed by solicitors acting for the group.

As reported exclusively in The Independent yesterday, writs will be issued by the Chileans in the next few days and will probably involve an application to the court for whatever assets the former dictator has in Britain to be frozen. "Now that Pinochet is in custody in London, we for the first time have the opportunity to lay these charges before a British court," a statement from the group, Chileans in Exile, said.

It is expected that a scores of the General victims in many countries will eventually participate in the action.

Among those reported to be considering action against him are the relatives of a young US boy kidnapped and killed by Pinochet's men in Santiago in the aftermath of the coup whose story was the basis of the prizewinning Hollywood film Missing which starred Jack Lemmon.

Pinochet's opponents point out that the English system of oral hearing in open court would be much more effective against him that the Spanish system where most of the arguments are developed on paper with relatively little confrontation in the court room.