Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fujimori Returns to Face Trial in Peru

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fujimori Returns to Face Trial in Peru

Article excerpt

Human rights groups in Peru and abroad are heralding the weekend extradition of former President Alberto Fujimori as a groundbreaking move for Latin America and beyond.

The Supreme Court in Chile, Peru's southern neighbor, agreed on Friday to accept the Peruvian government's request to send Mr. Fujimori home to stand trial on charges of corruption and human rights violations. The court approved seven of the 12 counts originally filed by Peru in January 2006.

Fujimori arrived in Peru late Saturday afternoon and was taken to a police complex where he will be held temporarily until his arraignment. A special prison may be built for him, a justice official said.

"This is huge," says John Walsh, a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights and democracy group. "It sets a precedent for the region."

This is the first time a former head of state has been extradited back to the country he once led to face justice.

Former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was handed over to an international court. But previous similar cases have been the result of executive branch negotiations. This marks the first time a national court has handed a leader over to a domestic court of another nation, say human rights experts. "This is a victory against the impunity that we have been accustomed to in Latin America. It is a major step forward for Chile, Peru, and the region as a whole," says Gloria Cano, a human rights lawyer in Lima.

A Peruvian court will now try Fujimori on charges ranging from his alleged approval of a death squad killing of 25 people to giving his intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, a $15 million "retirement" package after he was fired.

Fujimori has been a controversial figure in Peru since his upset victory in the 1990 presidential election. He vanquished hyperinflation and a leftist insurgency at the start of his 10-year rule (1990-2000), but at the end was hounded by charges of corruption and human rights abuses.

His government began to unravel after the 2000 presidential election. A secretly taped video was leaked showing Mr. Montesinos bribing an opposition congressman. Swiss authorities announced that they had discovered bank accounts traceable to Montesinos. Peruvian prosecutors estimate that more than $1 billion was stolen during the Fujimori years.

Montesinos has been in prison since 2001 on an array of convictions, including a 20-year sentence for drug trafficking.

As pressure built, Fujimori used his participation in the 2000 Asia-Pacific summit in Brunei to bail on his presidency. …

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