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Pinochet Case Throws SPanish Establishment into Confusion

By Anne Swardson
The Washington Post

The drive by a Spanish magistrate to extradite former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet from Britain and try him on charges of genocide, terrorism and torture has thrown the Spanish legal establishment into confusion and placed Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in a delicate political position.

The crusade by Baltasar Garzon, Spain's best-known investigating judge, is widely supported by Spanish public and media opinion. All major left- and right-wing newspapers favor the attempt to bring Pinochet to justice in Spain for the torture, deaths or disappearances of 94 people during his 17-year rule in Chile.

But Spain's chief government-appointed prosecutor, Eduardo Fungarino, earlier this week filed a court motion asserting that Garzon, and Spain, do not have jurisdiction over the alleged crimes because they were not committed in Spain.

In fact, Garzon's order of international arrest for Pinochet does not name a single Spaniard killed as part of Pinochet's regime of oppression. Rather, nearly all are Chileans or Argentines kidnapped or killed in Argentina.

Garzon, one of a corps of independent investigative magistrates under the Spanish judicial system, has indicated his interest in 3,000 of the people who disappeared under authoritarian rule in Chile and Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s, and is investigating the Argentinian case separately.

As Chilean president from 1973 to 1990, Garzon's arrest order said, Pinochet was "the leader of an international organization created to conceive, develop and execute the systematic planning of illegal detentions, torture, forced relocations, assassinations and/or disappearances of numerous persons, including Argentines, Spaniards, Britons, Americans, and Chileans.

Fungarino cited "an absolute lack of jurisdiction" when he appealed Garzon's extradition request Monday, and said Garzon had not followed correct legal procedures. Pinochet, 82, was arrested in Britain on Friday. The retired general remains sequestered at a London clinic pending the outcome of the extradition request.