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Fujimori to appeal 25-year sentence

Latest update : 2009-04-08

Alberto Fujimori, former president of Peru, was found guilty of "crimes against humanity" on Tuesday for killings carried out by an army death squad during his rule. He said he would challenge the 25-year prison sentence in Peru's Supreme Court.

AFP - Peruvian former president Alberto Fujimori, 70, was Tuesday convicted by a court here of "crimes against humanity" for killings carried out by an army death squad during his 1990-2000 rule, and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The ex-leader, who received the verdict by a special three-judge court without reaction, immediately said he would challenge the judgment in Peru's supreme court.

"Your honor, I am taking my recourse to appeal," he said in a dry tone -- the only words he uttered throughout the verdict session.

Fujimori had remained impassive when chief judge Cesar San Martin told him charges he authorized the death squad to kill 25 people in two incidents, in 1991 and 1992, and the kidnapping of a businessman and a journalist in 1992 "have been proved beyond all reasonable doubt."

He remained seated, writing deliberately in a pad when San Martin added: "These crimes are crimes of state. Murder and serious injury under the law constitute crimes against humanity."

Throughout the 16-month trial -- the longest and costliest legal case in Peru's history -- Fujimori maintained his innocence.

He said he had been unremitting in his fight against leftwing guerrillas whose two-decade campaign of violence he all but stamped out by the end of his presidency.

But he denied employing "dirty war" tactics or knowing about the actions of the death squad, known as La Colina.

The case was viewed as a legal landmark, being the first time an elected Latin American head of state faced trial in his own country for human rights violations.

Fujimori's daughter Keiko -- a congresswoman considering running for president herself in 2011 -- blasted the verdict.

"The sentence against my father is unjust. It's a victory for human rights groups and terrorism," she told AFP.

Rights groups, though, welcomed the trial result.

"Fujimori is finally being held to account for some of his crimes," Maria McFarland, a researcher for the US-based Human Rights Watch who was present in the courtroom, said in a statement.

"The Peruvian court has shown the world that even former heads of state cannot expect to get away with serious crimes," she said.

Fujimori was found guilty of giving political cover and leadership to the army death squad active during the darkest days of Peru's ultimately successful fight against insurgents.

Two actions by the La Colina unit were examined during the trial: one in November 1991 in which 15 people -- including an eight-year-old boy -- were shot dead at a barbecue in a Lima suburb; and the other in July 1992 where nine university students and their professor were abducted and shot in the capital.

The court also looked at the kidnapping cases of a businessman and a journalist in 1992.

Fujimori is already serving a six-year sentence for an unrelated, separate trial in which he was found guilty of abuse of power. He faces two future trials on other corruption charges stemming from his 1990-2000 period in power.

The former president, often called here "The Chinaman" for his Asian features derived from his Japanese parents, still enjoys widespread respect for his iron-willed fight against the rebels, and for his neoliberal policies that put Peru on the path to prosperity.

Fujimori resigned in 2000 by fax from a Tokyo hotel, where he had fled to escape a corruption scandal. Japan considered Fujimori to be a national by descent and refused to extradite him.

But Fujimori traveled in 2005 to Chile to restart his political career in Peru. He was arrested on arrival and eventually extradited to Peru in 2007.

Date created : 2009-04-07