A REMEMBRANCE candle was lit by Chilean exiles at a ceremony in Glasgow yesterday to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of their democratically elected


While much of the rest of the world remembered the attacks on the New York twin towers two years ago, the date scars Chilean souls for other reasons.

Following a CIA-backed military coup in 1973, an Augusto Pinochet-led dictatorship seized power from Salvador Allende, the socialist president.

A minute's silence was observed in Glasgow city chambers for more than 3000 people who died and at least a further 135,000 who were detained and tortured after the coup.

The dictatorship lasted for nearly 17 years before the country was returned to democratic rule in 1990.

Yesterday's event was also a celebration of the solidarity Scotland offered to Chilean refugees during the 1970s, and served to launch a public statement already supported by many people, including Labour MSPs Elaine Smith, Pauline McNeill, Jackie Baillie and Frances Curran, from the SSP parliamentary group.

The statement pledged the signatories to ''ongoing support for the cause of democracy, human, civil and political rights everywhere in the world, calling for an end to oppression, discrimination and exclusion of any kind''.

In a clear reference to current domestic debates, the statement continued: ''We re-affirm our commitment to providing refuge and asylum to people, like the Chileans who are fleeing persecution and need a safe haven to rebuild their lives.

''We value their contribution to Scottish society and the enriching diversity they bring.''

Oscar Mendoza, an organiser of the Glasgow event who, as a 19-year-old university student, was tortured and forced to flee Chile in 1973, said: ''Today we remember the victims of the military dictatorship and the fight for truth and justice that continues for them.''

Hernando Fernandez was exiled from Chile in 1975. Now a married father-of-four living in Glasgow, he said: ''Today is a sad day for me because I never wanted to leave my homeland. Our aspirations were severed.''

Carolina Perez, 27, from Glasgow, whose parents, Aida and Ramon, also fled Chile, said: ''My parents taught me, from their experiences, to stand up for human rights, justice, and socialist principles.''

Rosemary Burnett, programme director in Scotland of Amnesty International, told the gathering how Chilean refugees were ''met by kindness'' in Scotland in the 1970s, and were provided with practical assistance including homes and language facilities.

She contrasted that with the ''morally reprehensible'' reception given to asylum seekers today.

She added: ''Now the government's hostile policies mean children are locked up in removal centres surrounded by 20ft-high razor wire fences and where, if you come from a white list country, your case does not even merit consideration.''

The event was hosted by Liz Cameron, Glasgow's lord provost, and sponsored by Amnesty International, Chile Democratico (Scotland) and the STUC. The anniversary will also be marked by Chilean and Scottish musicians performing at a cultural event on Saturday.

In Santiago, President Ricardo Lagos, the third centre-left president since Chile returned to democracy, presided over official ceremonies in the government palace yesterday.

The military held a commemorative mass in the morning to remember the 200 of its own members who died under the dictatorship. However, about 3000 Pinochet loyalists - who say that history will vindicate the man they say saved the country from Marxism - gathered last night to pay their own tribute to the former dictator who is now 87, ill and housebound.