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Chile Group Plans Bush Welcome with War Crime Suit

Tue Oct 26, 2004 05:07 PM ET

SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Chileans opposed to the Iraq war have accused President Bush of war crimes in a criminal complaint lodged on Tuesday, less than a month before he is scheduled to visit the country.
The suit asks local courts to invoke international human rights treaties ratified by both countries and arrest Bush and members of his cabinet for questioning during their visit to Santiago for a summit of Asia Pacific leaders Nov. 19-21.

The courts usually take a few days to decide whether to accept this type of complaint and assign a judge who then has power to call people for questioning before deciding whether to indict. Filing criminal suits by civilians is common in Chile.

"Under international treaties just because you are head of state does not mean you are allowed to go out and commit any type of act and not be judged," said lawyer Juan Enrique Prieto, who filed the suit on behalf of the Communist Party and Humanist Party in the Santiago Appeals Court.

Attached to the text of the lawsuit were photographs of U.S. soldiers committing sexual and physical abuse of prisoners in the Iraq prison Abu Ghraib. U.S. courts have jailed three soldiers so far for the abuses in Iraq.

Chile and the United States have close ties and entered a free trade agreement this year, but anti-Bush sentiment is strong over the Iraq war.

Chile has much rights expertise after enduring the London arrest of former dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998 on an international arrest warrant on rights accusations. Pinochet was sent back to Chile on grounds of poor health but here he faces dozens of lawsuits accusing him of torture and other abuses during his 1973-1990 rule.

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