London

Protestors meet 'torture ship' Esmeralda at Canary Wharf

The Esmeralda protestors
Image caption About 60 protestors tried to warn visitors to the ship about its past history

Dozens of people have protested against the "outrageous" docking of a Chilean naval vessel, dubbed the "torture ship", in UK waters.

The Esmeralda docked at West India Docks in Canary Wharf as part of an organised visit.

Used as an interrogation centre during the 1973 military coup, protestors said the ship should not be in UK waters.

The Ministry of Defence said its arrival was routine and symbolic of the UK's relationship with Chile.

Image caption The Esmeralda is used as a naval training ship, and travels the world to represent Chile
Image caption Protestors branded the presence of the ship in UK waters as "shameful"

The Foreign Office said it was "aware of the allegations of human rights abuses" related to the vessel and judicial proceedings were "ongoing".

The protestors said people were tortured on board, including British Priest Father Michael Woodward, whose body has never been recovered.

Jimmy Bell, who arrived in the UK as a refugee in 1974 said: "It is shameful that the British Government is allowing this torture ship into British Waters."

He said: "Men were tortured, women were raped and people were actually killed. The Navy refused to recognise what they've done and they continue to use this vessel in a diplomatic way and it's an outrage.

"We have no problem with the Chilean Navy coming to the UK, it's the use of this vessel, which was a torture centre that we have a problem with."

Image caption The ship will be docked in east London until 30 August

Sarah De Witt, who now works as a social worker in London, but was taken as a political prisoner, said: "I was tortured, beaten up. I was given injections.

"I survived, but many of my friends were killed."

The ship is now used as a naval training ship, and tours the world to promote Chilean interests.

During a previous visit to UK waters, Amnesty International said using the vessel as a "goodwill ambassador" was an "affront to the victims of torture".


General Augusto Pinochet

Image copyright Getty Images

In 1973 General Pinochet led a military coup to oust the then Chilean leader, President Allende, and went on to represent the military regime

He ordered many purges which saw more than 3,000 supporters of the Allende regime killed, tortured and forced into exile

He closed down the Chilean Parliament, banned all political and trade union activity, and in 1974 appointed himself president

Under a new constitution he reluctantly stepped down as president in 1990, remaining commander-in-chief of the army until 1998


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