"This is a historic decision that we've been awaiting for 25 years," said one survivor of General Pinochet's dictatorship. But after the initial euphoria the mood became more sombre as the crowd absorbed the limitations of the judgment.
Judge Baltazar Garzon, whose arrest warrant last October caused General Pinochet's detention and began the legal saga, hastened to the National Court to discuss with his colleagues the next step. He observed enigmatically that the day was "as grey and rainy as in London", but there was a smile on his lips.
Laura Soria, widow of Carmelo Soria, a Spaniard who was tortured and killed by General Pinochet's secret police soon after the 1973 coup, digested the fact that the former dictator could not now be tried for the crime against her husband. But she was not angry. "It is a crucial advance in the struggle against impunity that goes beyond individual cases," she said.
In the Chilean capital, Santiago, hundreds gathered outside the Pinochet Foundation.As the verdict was announced a prolonged cheer broke out. It seemed that General Pinochet had won a complete victory.
But slowly it became clearthe general would not be returning at once. A sober-faced committee made up of retired generals gathered to assess the verdict. The ruling was a step forward, they said, but it was not the total victory they had been hoping for.