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After nearly a year of legal wrangling, Spain's attempt to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet the got under way today in a British Magistrate's Court.

The general -- arrested Oct. 16 while recovering from surgery in London -- is accused of gross human rights abuses during his 17-year dictatorship. Spain wants to try him for alleged offenses against Spanish citizens.

In court, prosecutors for the Spanish government detailed one charge of conspiracy to torture and 34 charges of specific cases of torture dating from December 1988 to December 1989. They also accused Pinochet of orchestrating a systematic campaign of terror during his last 15 months in power in 1989 and 1990.

The extradition hearing was expected to last five days and will delve only briefly into evidence, instead focusing primarily on extradition law. The 83-year-old Pinochet is not expected to attend.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Ronald Bartle must decide whether the charges against Pinochet are extraditable crimes, whether Spain has jurisdiction and whether the legal paperwork is in order.

Pinochet -- who is under house arrest southwest of London -- argues that only Chilean courts have jurisdiction to try him.

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