Pinochet Lawyers Ask Supreme Court to Fast-Track Pinochet Tests

Published December 22nd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Attorneys for Augusto Pinochet have filed a petition with the Supreme Court here to have mental health exams of the ailing former dictator conducted next week, a court source said Friday. 

But prosecuting lawyers dismissed the motion. "It's a derisory request, ridiculous," Eduardo Contreras told AFP. 

Pinochet's lawyers on Thursday had asked Judge Juan Guzman to conduct move up those exams to December 26, ahead of a planned interrogation set for December 27. 

Guzman is shepherding some 190 lawsuits filed against the 85-year-old former dictator for alleged rights abuses. 

Chile's Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered Pinochet to undergo mental and neurological exams to determine whether he is fit to stand trial for charges that include murder and kidnapping. 

The high court, in a four-to-one verdict, also threw out Guzman's house arrest order and indictment of the former dictator and ordered the judge to interrogate Pinochet within three weeks. 

Guzman decided to hold the interrogation December 27 at 1830 GMT, but had yet to set the venue, officials said Thursday. 

However, Pinochet attorneys argued the mental-health exams, originally scheduled for January 22, should be conducted next Tuesday because "the fundamental thing, the crucial thing, is the medical (mental health) exam, not the interrogation," said lawyer Pablo Rodriguez Grez. 

Pinochet's defense team advised they plan to take their case back to the high court Friday. 

The high court's decision Wednesday was a major setback for prosecutors seeking to try Pinochet for crimes committed under his iron-fisted rule, making the outcome of the medical examinations doubly crucial. 

From the defense perspective, if the exams demonstrate the former dictator's mental incapacity and inability to stand trial, he can also refuse to participate in Guzman's interrogation. 

"If the doctors say he cannot stand before the judge, we will exert his rights and refuse to submit to the interrogation," Rodriguez Grez said. 

Pinochet spent two and a half hours at Santiago's Military Hospital Thursday for what the hospital said was a dental procedure. 

The hospital's statement contradicted earlier reports from Pinochet's spokesman, Guillermo Garin, who said the ex-dictator was going in for cardiac tests. 

The former military ruler, who was in power from 1973-1990, suffers from diabetes and cardiovascular troubles. Neurological difficulties have caused some memory loss, his relatives say -- SANTIAGO (AFP)  



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