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2009-04-09

Fujimori sentenced to 25 years

Omar Bonilla A.

In a precedent-setting judgement, Peru’s former President Alberto Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for crimes against human rights committed in 1991 and 1992, during his first term of office. He will appeal against the verdict.

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Alberto Fujimori, Peru’s president from 1990 to 2000, speaks at his trial on 1 April 2009. He was accused of authorising two massacres during his administration.

Alberto Fujimori, Peru’s president from 1990 to 2000, speaks at his trial on 1 April 2009. He was accused of authorising two massacres during his administration.

LIMA, Peru – A civilian court has sentenced 70-year-old Alberto Fujimori to 25 years imprisonment for human rights violations committed while serving as president of Peru between 1990 and 2000.

Fujimori was convicted of authorising two death squad massacres, as well as the kidnappings of Samuel Dyer, a businessman, and Gustavo Gorriti, a journalist, in 1991 and 1992. His lawyers told El Comercio that they would be appealing against the verdict.

El Comercio reported that the conviction, which was announced after a 16-month trial, aroused conflicting reactions among Fujimori’s supporters and opponents, who spent the day demonstrating in different parts of Lima.

According to AFP, the Criminal Division of Peru’s Supreme Court found Fujimori guilty of being the “indirect perpetrator” of the killings. Under this legal concept, a person is guilty of a crime that he gets others to commit. In 1991, the “Colina” death squad, a paramilitary group, burst into a party in Barrios Altos, a poor neighbourhood in central Lima and killed 15 people whom they suspected of being linked to the terrorist group Shining Path.

In 1992, the Colina death squad kidnapped and murdered eight students and a professor from La Cantuta University on the outskirts of Lima. The court found that Fujimori authorised both these killings, as well as the kidnappings of businessman Samuel Dyer and journalist Gustavo Gorriti.

After taking off two years for time spent in detention between his arrest in Chile and extradition to Peru, Fujimori’s sentence will end on 10 February, 2032.

The former president pleaded innocent and denied having ordered the killings at Barrios Altos and La Cantuta. Insisting that he knew nothing about the Colina group’s secret operations, he said that he was proud rather than ashamed of his campaign to pacify the country.

Fujimori and his children, Keiko, Sofia, and Kenji, showed no emotion as the verdict was announced, according to Reuters, although dozens of the former president’s supporters gathered outside the headquarters of the Police Special Operations Unit in east Lima to demonstrate against the decision.

Amnesty International representative Javier Zúñiga told EFE that the decision was “one of the most significant in recent times because it touched on the liability of a head of state for crimes committed by agencies that he was instrumental in creating”.

According to El Comercio, however, the appeal lodged by Fujimori’s defence is likely to prolong the trial for another year. Fujimori also faces four charges of corruption. None of them, however, are likely to have any practical effect on his situation because, under Peruvian law, sentences are not cumulative. In other words, he will serve only the longest sentence.

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