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The Independent Online
Last week the Home Secretary decided not to halt extradition proceedings against the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Here is how some press commentators viewed

his decision.

WE HAVE been subjected to another barrage of accusations of political bias from the pro-Pinochet camp. Pinochet's supporters must be the last people in the country who still consider Jack Straw a radical firebrand...

While accusing Straw of political bias, the pro-Pinochet camp betray their own. Are we meant to think it disgraceful that he should have opposed Pinochet's military regime in 1973? Are we supposed to assume that the Home Office should adopt an attitude of surly non-cooperation with the Spanish Government?...

I do not feel I have learned very much about Jack Straw's political prejudices in the course of the past weeks, but I have certainly learned more than I wished to about Lord Lamont's and those of his friends in the Pinochet camp.

Isabel Hilton, Guardian

IT IS well known that for several members of the Government, including the Home Secretary, the Chilean tyranny a generation ago was part of their political birthright. Yet they appear to see nothing odd about refusing to allow the fledgeling Chilean democracy to make its own decisions about Pinochet, while they continue to admit freely to this country men who have also been guilty of monstrous abuses of human rights....

Britain's relations with Chile will be severely damaged by today's outcome, because the Chileans understandably find it an affront that the former President of Britain's National Union of Students should indulge his own conscience in this fashion.

Leader, London Evening Standard

HOME SECRETARY Jack Straw is to be congratulated on his brave decision to compel Augusto Pinochet to stand trial for extradition. The former Chilean dictator will now have to face justice - something he never allowed his opponents....

But before we throw our hats in the air, perhaps we should think about the issues that arise from this step. The decision to allow the British courts to determine whether Pinochet should be extradited to stand trial in Spain for human rights abuses sets a remarkable precedent....

Famously, history is written by the victors. That's why we put top Nazis on trial in Nuremberg after World War Two. Had the Germans won, no doubt they would have hanged Winston Churchill. So you see, this is a political and moral quagmire. And Nato and the western nations do not have a monopoly of wisdom on who is guilty and who is innocent.

Paul Routledge, Mirror

THE HOME Secretary was, he insists, "satisfied that he took this decision with an open mind". An open mind? We may only surmise what Mr Straw means by this phrase. When Lord Hoffmann's judgment in the first House of Lords ruling turned out to have been flawed by his association with Amnesty International, the Home Secretary did not condemn this unprecedented humiliation of the British judiciary. Lord Hoffmann remains in office; presumably Mr Straw approves of his notion of impartiality. So open is the Home Secretary's mind, however, that he has evidently been able to put behind him his own past support for the Allende regime....

The Home Secretary is satisfied that his mind was open. But is anybody else?

Leader, Daily Telegraph

JACK STRAW'S claim to have considered "with an open mind" the question of allowing extradition proceedings to start against General Pinochet caused the most derision among the ex-dictator's supporters yesterday. Whatever other qualities this Government has brought to bear in its considerations of this sorry case, disinterest is not one of them....

This is an issue from which it is impossible to separate out the politics. As a result, Britain is doing herself massive diplomatic damage, and has now instigated a legal procedure from which the worst loser is likely to be our country's international credibility....

By intruding into the affairs of a country about which this Government manifestly knows little, we have divided and destabilised it. As the Pinochet circus rolls on in the British and, perhaps, even the Spanish courts, that destabilisation will inevitably become worse; and the fault will be squarely ours....

This grandstanding by a British government simply tears up the diplomatic rulebook and starts again.

Simon Heffer, Daily Mail

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