Hospital Wants Pinochet Out

A London hospital said on Tuesday it was considering legal action to evict Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet after trying to persuade him to leave for two weeks.

The private Grovelands Priory psychiatric hospital, where the 83-year-old has been staying for more than a month as Spain seeks his extradition to face charges of murder, torture, and genocide, said it wanted him out as quickly as possible.

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Pinochet was still in the hospital on Tuesday despite being declared fit and being told he did not need its specialist and nursing care.

"We are hoping he will go very soon, but we seem not to be able to budge him," a spokeswoman for Grovelands told Reuters.

Asked whether the hospital was considering taking legal action, she said: "Yes. No decision has been taken yet, but we are quite keen to remove him." A possible ground for legal proceedings could be trespass.

However, lawyers for the former dictator said Tuesday that Pinochet is distressed by demands he leave the hospital and that he would likely move to another location.

Pinochet has been under police guard at the hospital since October 29, while British legal authorities consider a Spanish judge's request that he be handed over.

Britain's highest court ruled last Wednesday that Pinochet was not immune from prosecution, opening up the prospect that he could be extradited. Britain's Home Secretary (interior minister) Jack Straw has until Dec. 11 to decide whether to authorize the next stage of extradition proceedings.

London's Grovelands Priory psychiatric hospital

Pinochet was first arrested in London while recovering from a minor back operation at another private hospital. He later moved to Grovelands for medical assessment of anxiety and stress.

In a terse statement, Grovelands said Pinochet had been declared fit by a court two weeks ago and "no longer requires the specalist medical and nursing care provided at Grovelands."

"He doesn't need to be here. We have asked him to go several times," the Grovelands spokeswoman said.

Lawyers for Pinochet and the Chilean embassy could not be contacted for comment. British media have suggested he may go to a private house on a exclusive gated estate in Surrey, south of London, or a hotel at Heathrow airport.

Meanwhile the first nationwide opinion poll in Britain on whether Pinochet should be extradited to Spain found that 51 percent were in favor of his standing trial.

The poll for the Evening Standard found that 32 percent of those questioned said he should be freed to return to Chile and 17 percent were "don't knows."

Chile's Foreign Minister Jose Miguel Insulza on Tuesday began a second day of efforts to persuade Spanish officials to stop proceedings against Pinochet.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Monday appeared to show sympathy for his argument that Pinochet's prosecution would threaten Chile's political stability.

"In Chile, the citizens of a democratic state are wrestling with a very difficult problem of how to balance the need for justice with the requirements of reconciliation," she told journalists.

"And I think significant respect should be given to their conclusions."
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