Britain on Thursday dropped extradition proceedings against Augusto Pinochet, clearing the way for the former Chilean dictator to return home immediately. Barring last-minute legal moves, the decision ended a 16-month legal battle by Pinochet to stop his extradition from London to Spain, where he was to stand trial on torture charges connected with his 1973-1990 rule. «I have today decided that I will not order the extradition of Senator Pinochet to Spain,» Home Office Minister Jack Straw said in a statement. «I have also decided not to issue authorities to proceed in respect of the extradition requests from Switzerland, Belgium and France.»
Protesters who had gathered outside the English country residence where Pinochet has been under house arrest heard the decision in stunned silence before breaking into angry shouts in Spanish of «Murderer» and «We want justice.» «This is a travesty of justice. Straw is a hypocrite,» said Roberto Vasquez, 44, a builder. «This really is a mockery of justice. The whole question of whether Pinochet was unfit to stand trial is still open. Straw is overriding this and he is undermining the legal right to appeal. It is a disgrace,» said Nicholas Cshergo, a 27-year-old student.


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