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Pinochet Returns to Chile

BY Admin  March 5, 2000 at 3:10 PM EST

Chile’s former dictator is holed up and under heavy army protection inside a luxury mansion, two days after flying home from Britain.

British Home Secretary Jack Straw released Pinochet Friday after ruling that the 84-year-old general is too ill to stand trial for human rights violations.

Heated debate about his future continues, with several countries weighing in on the general’s legal situation.

Although Spain said it will abandon efforts to prosecute Pinochet, Belgium will continue to pursue legal action in the Chilean courts. The Belgian Foreign Minister said his counterpart in Chile asked him not to drop their case.

Switzerland won’t appeal the decision but says it will review whether Britain acted correctly. France meanwhile expressed regret over the ruler’s release and judicial sources say a judge investigating the disappearance of French citizens under Pinochet’s rule has asked his government to appeal Straw’s decision.

Authorities arrested Pinochet in 1998 on a Spanish warrant while the 84-year-old senator-for-life sought medical treatment in London. He was accused of a series of human rights abuses against Chilean and Spanish citizens during his 1973-1990 rule.

Pinochet was chief of Chile’s army before ousting Socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973 in a military uprising.

He headed a military government in Chile for 17 years, stepping down only after he won less than 50 percent in a 1988 plebiscite on his rule.

More than 3,000 people died or disappeared during Pinochet’s tenure, with tens of thousands of others fleeing into exile.

Pinochet retained control of the army for several years after he stepped down, and was named a senator for life by the new Chilean government.