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Geneva prosecutor disappointed by Pinochet ruling

Canton Geneva's chief prosecutor, Bernard Bertossa, says he is "extremely disappointed" about the British decision to free the former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet.

This content was published on March 2, 2000 - 22:46

Canton Geneva's chief prosecutor, Bernard Bertossa, says he is "extremely disappointed" about the British government's decision to free the former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet. The Swiss authorities, meanwhile, are checking whether they can lodge an appeal.

Switzerland was one of four countries that had requested the general's extradition in connection with disappearances or human rights abuses during his rule.

The British interior minister, Jack Straw, stuck by an earlier ruling, based on a contested medical report, that Pinochet was too ill to be extradited. Throughout the wrangle, Switzerland has maintained that, under international conventions, health cannot be used as a reason for not extraditing someone.

Bertossa, who filed the arrest warrant, said he was not surprised by Straw's decision, which he said "confirms that Britain remains a haven for criminals of every kind."

"When it comes to extradition, Britain doesn't usually respect international conventions," the magistrate said.

Bertossa said that as a cantonal official he was not part of the extradition process, and so could not appeal against the verdict. He added that he saw no possibility of a successful appeal by a foreign country.

But a Federal Police Office spokesman said Switzerland was looking into whether it could lodge a legal challenge to the decision to free the former dictator. But he said that as the general was already on his way back to Chile, an appeal might not make much sense.

Bertossa filed an arrest warrant against Pinochet in connection with the 1977 disappearance in Argentina of Alexei Jaccard, a student with Swiss-Chilean nationality. It's believed the Chilean secret police were responsible.

Spain, Belgium and France had also lodged extradition requests with Britain against Pinochet.

From staff and wires

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