Fee and Clear; Gen. Augusto Pinochet Returns to Home in ChileAired March 2, 2000 - 1:10 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: He's old, sick and largely despised, but former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is a free man. The government of Britain today handed down its final decision on a bid by Spain to put Pinochet on trial.
CNN's Nic Robertson has our report.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was the moment General Augusto Pinochet had been waiting 17 months for: a flight to home, to Chile and freedom. Hours earlier, under police guard, he left the luxury home that had been his prison in Britain, released by the British government, no longer facing the possibility of a trial in Spain on charges of torture.
JACK STRAW, BRITISH HOME SECRETARY: This morning, I informed the House by written answer that I had discharged Senator Pinochet from the Spanish extradition request on the grounds that he was unfit to stand trial and that no significant improvement in his condition could be expected.
ROBERTSON: From before dawn, protesters had gathered, hoping appeals from European governments would convince Straw not to release Pinochet, but within hours of Straw's ruling, it was clear to even the most hardened protesters that Pinochet was now beyond reach.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a criminal now who can live free and who will never be judged in Chile.
ROBERTSON: Many protesters accuse the British government of letting Pinochet go.
(on camera): Pinochet's departure closes a chapter in the campaign of these protesters to get the justice they want for their loved ones. However, they say they will not give up the fight.
(voice-over): While Pinochet may have avoided trial because of his mental condition, human rights groups say his case has established an important precedent.
VINCENT DEL BUONO, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: The courts of the United Kingdom have confirmed that people accused of crimes such as torture can be prosecuted anywhere in the world. ROBERTSON: For now, Senator Augusto Pinochet is heading for the one place in the world where he is unlikely ever to face trial.
Nic Robertson, CNN, London.
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