Pinochet Headed Home?

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Never mind the courts, keep an eye on the airports: The surest sign of General Augusto Pinochet's fate may be the arrival of a Chilean military aircraft in London Monday, ready to take the former dictator home. "Britain's government has backed away from the Pinochet case, saying it's a matter for the courts," says TIME London bureau chief Barry Hillenbrand. "They're committed to seeing through the Spanish extradition request, but this is too hot for Britain to handle alone." As Pinochet's lawyers fought for his release in London, the Spanish high court was considering a magistrate's extradition request. If Madrid drops the case, Britain will still face pressure to try Pinochet in London or turn him over to answer new charges filed in Switzerland and France. But the political fallout in Chile may persuade Britain's Home Secretary Jack Straw to veto any further legal proceedings on humanitarian grounds. "If the Spanish drop their claim, you can bet Pinochet will be on the next plane out," says Hillenbrand. And probably a little leery of vacationing abroad for a while.