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Chilean Supreme Court Strips Augusto Pinochet of ImmunityAired August 8, 2000 - 11:12 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Out of Santiago, Chile, want to go back to Harris Whitbeck. Earlier there, we told you about that immunity deal being stripped away from Augusto Pinochet, the former leader there and dictator now 84 years old and back in his home country of Chile.
Harris Whitbeck now with us live.
We were talking earlier about protests and celebrations. What's happening now?
HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Bill. Those who are opposed to General Pinochet have marched from the Palace of Justice here in downtown Santiago towards the monument to Salvador Allende. Allende, as you know, was the socialist president who was overthrown in a military coup in 1973 by Augusto Pinochet. He's become a hero of sorts for many here and a symbol of the left's right -- the left's fight -- I'm sorry -- against General Pinochet. Many of the people who are out here today are relatives of those who disappeared during his regime.
Behind me, there is a small group of people who actually support Pinochet. And throughout this process here at the Supreme Court, the two groups have been literally separated by one city block. And just in the middle of that city block was the Supreme Court. That, in a way, symbolizes what was happening to this country that was very much divided. Public opinion has been very much divided on what General Pinochet's future should be.
That future now in the hands of Judge Juan Guzman who is overseeing over 150 cases that have been filed against General Pinochet. Those cases range from disappearances to the actual assassination of opponents during his regime -- Bill.
HEMMER: Harris, just reading here back in Atlanta the Chilean law that states that a person in poor health or mentally incompetent to stand trial would not have to be held accountable for crimes there in Chile. One would assume that lawyers may argue that he is indeed in poor health, based on his condition back in London after being held there for quite a long time. Is it possible that we can conclude that that indeed will be the defense at some point?
WHITBECK: Well, Chilean law says that anybody over the age of 70 must be subject to these medical tests to determine whether they are mentally fit to stand trial. The general's son and daughter came out with a statement a few days ago and they are expected to again come out today and make it and stress the point that they do not want their father and their father does not want to undergo those tests because they do not consider him to be mentally incompetent, and they basically want the day in court. They have said that their father can prove his innocence in court and he wants that opportunity.
HEMMER: Harris, do we know, where has Pinochet been since his time that he spent in London? Do we know?
WHITBECK: I'm sorry, Bill, could you repeat that?
HEMMER: Yes, I was just wondering, do we know the whereabouts of Pinochet and where he has been in the past several months?
WHITBECK: He's been at -- well, he has several houses here in Chile and we understand that he's in the house he has here in Santiago. He has not been in very good health. As you know, he -- among his many medical problems, he suffers from diabetes, and that according to people at the Pinochet Foundation which functions as his public relations firm, so to speak -- means that he has good days and bad days. And so he's been pretty much kept, you know, to his home and hasn't been able -- hasn't had any public activities in several weeks now.
HEMMER: Harris Whitbeck, live there in Santiago, thanks. Good reporting. Harris Whitbeck down there.
In addition to diabetes, he's also suffered three mild strokes, he has a pacemaker, 84 years old. And we knew back in London he was having difficulty with his health. That's why he was there in the first place.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right, he had back surgery, yes.
HEMMER: Indeed, yes.
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