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Interpol Asks for Fujimori

Peru's ex-president, living in Japan, is wanted on murder and kidnapping charges.

March 27, 2003|Hector Tobar and Andres D'Alessandro | Times Staff Writers

LIMA, Peru — Interpol issued a request Wednesday for the arrest and extradition of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori on charges of murder and kidnapping in separate incidents carried out by military death squads during his rule in the 1990s.

Fujimori is currently living in Tokyo and the so-called red notice issued by Interpol does not oblige authorities to extradite him. A Peruvian-born son of Japanese immigrants, Fujimori reclaimed his Japanese citizenship after being forced from office in 2000.

Although Japan does not generally extradite its nationals, the Interpol decision may increase pressure on Japanese authorities to review the status of Fujimori's citizenship.

The Interpol warrant refers to murder charges brought in Peruvian courts against the former president that allege he was the coauthor of crimes carried out by the "Colina" paramilitary death squad.

An Interpol statement said that "all the relevant legal requirements for a red notice request had been satisfied by Peru." The warrant will be sent to all 181 member countries of the international police agency.

The Interpol decision was only the latest in a series of legal setbacks for Fujimori and Vladimiro Montesinos, the former spymaster who was a linchpin of Fujimori's rule.

The two men dominated Peru until driven from power by corruption scandals and popular protest in November 2000. Last week, Peruvian lawmakers unanimously approved new charges against Fujimori, accusing him of illegally authorizing millions of dollars in government purchases.

And on Monday, Montesinos, imprisoned in Peru, was convicted of illegally arranging favors for his former lover's family -- the trial was one of about 60 he faces on a long litany of charges, ranging from murder and drug trafficking to influence peddling.

Prosecutors here charged Fujimori in Colina killings in September 2001. The paramilitary group is accused of killing 15 people during a 1991 barbecue at a Lima tenement. Group members were also linked to the kidnapping and slaying of nine students and a professor at La Cantuta University in 1992.

Wednesday's announcement by Interpol was praised by government officials and legislators from across the political spectrum, although most agreed that in the near future there is little chance that Fujimori will be brought to Peru to face the charges against him.

Still, Ronald Gamarra, a prosecutor on the Fujimori case, was hopeful that the Interpol action will keep the pressure on the disgraced president. Gamarra said that Japan's decision to resist Peru's request to extradite Fujimori, was "more political that judicial." If Fujimori "finds himself in any other country, the authorities will act upon the Interpol recommendation and inform the Peruvian government," Gamarra added.

"We think these are crimes against humanity, and therefore governments have an international duty to investigate" if Fujimori is in their country, Gamarra added.

Interpol will place Fujimori on its own version of a "most wanted" list, a global rogues' gallery of suspected drug dealers, rapists, terrorists and others, available on the Internet at www.interpol.int.

In June, the Cabinet of Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo approved a formal request to extradite Fujimori from Japan, although the two countries do not have an extradition treaty. Peruvian officials are still translating hundreds of pages of documents requested by Japanese authorities in support of the request.

In Tokyo, Fujimori remained silent on the latest development in the case against him. On Tuesday, however, he declared on his "From Tokyo" Web site that the accusations against him will soon be disproved.

"We continue to build the bridge of our return" to Peru, he wrote. "The machinery is at work."

Fujimori reclaimed his Japanese citizenship a month after stepping down as Peru's president in a resignation letter he signed at a Tokyo hotel. A month later, Japanese authorities said he was eligible for citizenship because his parents registered his birth at the Japanese Consulate in Lima in 1938.

He never renounced his Japanese citizenship. But some officials here have argued that Fujimori effectively relinquished it by becoming Peru's head of state.

*

Tobar reported from Buenos Aires and D'Alessandro from Lima.

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