updated 4/15/2004 10:15:09 PM ET 2004-04-16T02:15:09

Peru’s Congress approved murder charges against ex-President Alberto Fujimori for allegedly authorizing the death squad killing of a union leader more than a decade ago, officials said Thursday.

Fujimori’s government collapsed amid a corruption scandal in November 2000. He has since lived in Tokyo, protected from extradition by Japanese citizenship. He denies any wrongdoing and insists the allegations against him are politically motivated.

Peruvian prosecutors have piled up more than a dozen charges against him — from murder to illegal wiretapping and corruption — in hopes of pressuring Tokyo to extradite him.

Congress voted 56-5 with four abstentions late Wednesday to approve charges that Fujimori directed a paramilitary death squad to murder one of the nation’s most influential labor leaders, Pedro Huilca, the legislature said in a statement released Thursday.

Huilca, a popular leader of organized construction workers, had been a harsh critic of Fujimori before his December 1992 murder.

Fujimori and his government investigators maintained that Shining Path guerrillas killed Huilca, although witnesses said the men who grabbed him outside of his Lima home drove sport utility vehicles with police license plates. Huilca was found shot to death on the outskirts of the capital. Investigators reopened the case after Fujimori fled Peru.

Pro-Fujimori legislators on Thursday criticized the congressional vote, claiming the charges lack evidence.

Fujimori has vowed to run for Peru’s presidency in 2006, despite the mounting criminal charges against him and a congressional ban on his holding public office until 2010.

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