Ruling on Pinochet's immunity due today

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The Independent US

The Chilean Supreme Court's official ruling to lift General Augusto Pinochet's parliamentary immunity is expected to be issued today, but his defence team's tactics could stall a trial of the ex-dictator for so long that he will go to his grave without facing judgment.

The Chilean Supreme Court's official ruling to lift General Augusto Pinochet's parliamentary immunity is expected to be issued today, but his defence team's tactics could stall a trial of the ex-dictator for so long that he will go to his grave without facing judgment.

By law, all defendants over 70 years old must have mental competency tests to ensure that they are neither senilenor mad. Some of General Pinochet's lawyers are considering that clause as a loophole to avoid his trial on 157 pending cases of kidnap, torture and murder. The frail health of the former strongman, 84, was cited in Britain as a reason to prevent his extradition in March for a Spanish torture trial.

But the general's family is adamant that he will risk contempt of court charges and refuse to submit to medical tests. Marco Antonio Pinochet, the ex-leader's son, told reporters: "What my father will do now is to defend his innocence in court", tacitly acknowledging that the immunity has been stripped. Avoiding trial on medical grounds, he said, "would mean that Father would be considered guilty and, in addition, crazy".

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