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Fujimori convicted for illegal search in 2000

Peru's former president gets six years behind bars for abuse of power. He still faces charges on more serious counts.

December 12, 2007|Adriana Leon and Patrick J. McDonnell | Special to The Times

LIMA, PERU — Former President Alberto Fujimori was convicted of abuse of power Tuesday and sentenced to six years in prison after a judge found him responsible for an illegal search at the home of the wife of his onetime intelligence chief.

It was the first conviction in a series of criminal charges Fujimori has faced since being extradited from Chile in September.

Human rights advocates have hailed the multiple cases against Fujimori as blows against impunity. But supporters of the ex-president call him the victim of political persecution.

The abuse of power charge is among the least serious faced by Fujimori, but his conviction was a setback for the ex-president.

His daughter, Keiko Fujimori, a popular congresswoman, was visibly upset afterward, and called the decision "unjust."

However, she added that her father had conceded the "irregularity" of the disputed search, which took place in the waning, convulsive days of his administration.

The ex-president, whose legal team had hoped for a suspended sentence, indicated that he would file a partial appeal of the conviction.

The conviction came a day after Fujimori stunned Peruvians with an emotional outburst in a separate, far more serious, case in which he stands accused of dispatching death squads to kill 25 suspected leftists. The ex-president faces a 30-year prison term in that case.

During Monday's court session, Fujimori, 69, shouted that he was "totally innocent" of ordering the killings and argued that his decisive tactics had saved Peru from terrorism and economic ruin.

The former president also faces charges of kidnapping, corruption and bribery.

Fujimori, who is being held in a special lockup without bail, was subdued in court Tuesday as the judge took three hours to read his findings.

As the ex-leader was being led away, local media reported, he flashed a smile at his three children, who were watching proceedings from behind a glass partition.

The search at issue took place Nov. 7, 2000, in the former apartment of the wife of Vladimiro Montesinos, Fujimori's shadowy spymaster. At the time, Montesinos was a fugitive in a mushrooming corruption case that would ultimately topple Fujimori's government. Montesinos is now jailed here and, like Fujimori, facing multiple trials and life behind bars.

Prosecutors suspect that Fujimori ordered an aide to conduct the warrantless search in an eleventh-hour effort to collect videos or other evidence that could have implicated his administration in corruption. Montesinos, a purported master of blackmail, was known to have made clandestine videotapes of lawmakers and others receiving bribes.

Fujimori eventually fled Peru and filed his resignation by fax from Japan, his parents' homeland.

patrick.mcdonnell@latimes.com

Special correspondent Leon reported from Lima and Times staff writer McDonnell from Buenos Aires.

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