LIMA – Disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years in prison Tuesday by a panel of Peruvian Supreme Court judges who deemed him responsible for two massacres carried out by the security forces during his 1990-2000 tenure.
Fujimori, 70, was found guilty of premeditated murder in the deaths of 25 people and was also convicted in the kidnappings of prominent opponents of his government.
Defense attorneys immediately filed an appeal.
The chief judge of the panel, Cesar San Martin, said that the crimes were crimes against the state and against humanity and that they were aggravated by cruel treatment of the victims.
In the verdict, it is specified that the massacres were carried out by agents of the state, members of the covert army death squad known as Colina, and that the victims were said to be linked with the Maoist-inspired rebel group Shining Path.
“There was no institutional willingness to clarify the crimes of human rights violations, the response was regrettable and obstructive, (since) the objective was to deny the deeds,” the judges emphasized.
The ruling said that “the cover-up mechanism was so amazing, (and) it was firmly maintained at the time, but it could not have been carried out or consolidated without the support of the head of state.”
Fujimori “fanatically defended” his spy chief and top adviser, Vladimiro Montesinos, who headed all the state intelligence organizations, the verdict added.
Colina acted under the orders of the entities commanded by Montesinos, who in turn regularly provided reports of his activities to Fujimori.
It emerged during the trial that Colina members were assured that Fujimori would protect them from punishment for the massacres at the working-class Lima neighborhood of Barrios Altos in 1991 and at Lima’s La Cantuta University in 1992.
The Colina members who killed 15 people mistaken for communist rebels in Barrios Altos and nine students and a professor at La Cantuta were given relatively light sentences by a military court, and were later released under an amnesty law passed in 1995, shortly after Fujimori was re-elected to a second term.
Fujimori’s daughter, Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, said that her father’s conviction “is an aberration, which oozes hate and revenge.”
In remarks to reporters, the lawmaker added that the former president’s supporters “are going to back Fujimori peacefully in the streets.”
Markedly emotional at the news, Keiko addressed her father’s detractors to say: “If you think that this conviction is going to weaken us, you’re wrong.”
“We fujimoristas are growing and getting stronger in the face of these injustices. Today, we’re first in the (voter) surveys (for the 2001 general elections) and we’ll continue like that,” she added.
Fujimori’s 1990-2000 government collapsed amid a burgeoning corruption scandal involving Montesinos.
When the dismissal of Montesinos failed to still the growing public clamor, Fujimori fled Peru for his ancestral homeland, Japan, from where he faxed his resignation as president.
Although safe from extradition in Japan, the former president arrived in Chile unexpectedly on Nov. 6, 2005, apparently with hopes of returning to his homeland to compete in the 2006 presidential election.
But Chilean authorities promptly arrested him on an Interpol warrant and he was eventually extradited to Peru.
Tokyo originally granted Fujimori asylum by virtue of the Japanese citizenship his emigrant parents obtained for him at the time of his birth in Peru.
Many in Peru say the corruption and abuses of Fujimori’s rule should be forgiven in light of his success in crushing Shining Path, blamed for the biggest share of the 70,000 political killings that took place in the Andean nation between 1980 and 2000.
But rights activists and relatives of the victims insist that Fujimori be held accountable for the actions of his government.
And while pursuing an appeal of Tuesday’s conviction, the former president’s lawyers must begin preparing for his trial on corruption charges.
Peruvian courts have recovered $182 million embezzled from the treasury during Fujimori’s government, but “more than half of the money misappropriated” in the 1990-2000 period must still be reclaimed, prosecutor Pedro Gamarra said in January.
The total amount stolen reaches “enormous figures,” Gamarra said then, noting that Fujimori and other officials are believed to have accepted kickbacks on billions of dollars in government contracts. EFE