Peru: First Trial against Former President Alberto Fujimori Ends in Six-Year Sentence

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A top Peruvian court has sentenced former President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) to six years in prison in the first of several trials on human rights and corruption charges against him. On Dec. 11, the court handed down the sentence of six years and a fine of hundreds of thousands of soles for Fujimori's "abuse of authority" when he allowed the search of his former spy chief's luxury apartment without a warrant. Fujimori, 69, still faces allegations including murder, kidnapping, and corruption that could result in a maximum sentence of 30 years.

Fujimori fled Peru for Japan at the end of his presidency in 2000 and took residence there for five years as the Japanese government refused to extradite him (see NotiSur, 2000-12-22). In what appeared to be a badly considered attempt to insert himself into the 2005 presidential election in Peru, Fujimori rented a private jet and flew back to Latin America, landing ultimately in Chile where he was arrested and held while the country's courts considered Peru's extradition request (see NotiSur, 2005-10-14 and 2005-11-18).

The Chilean government extradited Fujimori in September 2007, following a Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ) decision (see NotiSur, 2007-10-05).

Peru's chief prosecutor Carlos Briceno told the press in September that the trials against Fujimori would be "an extremely rapid process of some three or four months."

Fujimori still has a significant power bloc within Peru supporting him, with more than a dozen members of Congress allied with him, but a large number of citizens revile the ex-president as an authoritarian leader who abused his powers.

Conviction for searching Montesinos' home without warrant

Peruvian Supreme Court (Corte Suprema de Justicia, CSJ) Justice Pedro Guillermo Urbina declared Fujimori guilty of abusing his power for ordering the illegal search as his government imploded in scandal seven years ago (see NotiSur, 2000-10-06). Urbina also fined Fujimori the equivalent of US$134,900.

Fujimori was convicted of having a military aide pose as a prosecutor and, without a warrant, search the luxury apartment of the wife of his spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos in November 2000.

It was the first prison sentence handed down for Fujimori. He reportedly showed little emotion during the hearing. After the sentence was read, he consulted quickly with his defense lawyer and then addressed the judge, saying he was appealing "partially" the sentence and the fine. He did not elaborate.

His daughter Keiko, a congresswoman for his party, attacked the ruling as she left the courtroom. "This is really an unfair sentence," she said. "Before, it was a political persecution. Now it's a judicial persecution. Like 90% of the Peruvian people, I don't trust the judicial system."

The trial on the charge of abuse of authority was conducted in closed hearings before a single judge because it involved a minor charge. The trials are taking take place at the police base on the eastern outskirts of Lima where Fujimori is being held.

The prosecution had sought a sentence of seven years, but Fujimori's defense lawyer Cesar Nakazaki had asked the court for a reduced sentence of four years, arguing that Fujimori was not the one who committed the crime but was simply the "instigator." Judges normally suspend sentences of four years or less.

In the trial, Fujimori admitted ordering one of his military aides, an army officer, to pass himself off as a prosecutor during the search. All searches in Peru require a court order and the presence of a prosecutor. Fujimori justified his action by saying it was part of a nationwide search for Montesinos after Switzerland accused him of money laundering.

At the time of the search, only days before Fujimori fled Peru, the Interior Ministry said plainclothes police had seized some 40 suitcases and 40 boxes filled with videos and books in the apartment of Montesinos' wife, Trinidad Becerra. …