Peru: Fujimori convicted; new case opens in 1991 massacre

A Peruvian court Dec. 11 sentenced former president Alberto Fujimori to six years in prison for abusing his powers by ordering an illegal search of the home of Trinidad Becerra, wife of his fugitive spymaster Vladimiro Montesinos in November 2000. The ex-president was also fined 400,000 soles ($135,000 dollars). But he claimed the search was necessary as part of a nationwide hunt for Montesinos, then wanted on both Swiss charges of money-laundering and Peruvian charges bribing opposition figures.

Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko Fujimori, a Peruvian national legislator, called the sentence “unjust.” She told reporters outside the court: “This is not going to stand. There will be an appeal. Before, it was political persecution, now it’s judicial persecution. What can we hope for in the next cases?”

Montesinos managed to escape to Venezuela but was caught, extradited and convicted. He is still being prosecuted for a string of corruption cases.

The sentence came down the day after a new trial opened against Fujimori for human rights violations, including the death-squad killing of 25 suspected guerilla collaborators in 1991, and the kidnapping of an opposition journalist and a businessman, as well as four counts of corruption. Fujimori protested his innocence in that case, saying: “I never ordered the death of anybody… If there were horrible things done, it was not on my order and I condemn them.”

The ex-president also took the opportunity to paint himself as the savior of his country, shouting down the chief judge: “I received Peru in 1990 in a state of collapse, with hyperinflation, international isolation, and widespread terrorism… Peru is progressing today because there were reforms in the context of respect for human rights. I totally reject the charges. I am innocent.”

He then complained of feeling ill, and the court doctor diagnosed high blood pressure, forcing the judge to call a recess for the rest of the day. If convicted on the rights violations, Fujimori could face 30 years in prison and pay $33 million in compensation to victims’ families.

Said Gloria Cano, attorney for relatives of the 1991 massacre victims: “If he acts this way, in the context of a trial and while under arrest, imagine how he must have been when he had all the power in his hands as president.” (Living in Peru, Dec. 13; AFP, CSM, Dec. 12)

See our last posts on Peru and the trials of Fujimori.