A Chilean judge opened investigations on Friday into an extradition request for former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori and upheld his detention after he was arrested in Santiago two months ago.
Orlando Alvarez, the Supreme Court judge handling the Fujimori case, must examine 12 boxes of evidence against the former leader before recommending for or against extradition to Peru.
“Let the investigation begin,” Alvarez said in a ruling. He will also lead an interrogation of Fujimori, who is wanted in Peru on charges of human rights abuses and corruption during his 1990-2000 hard-line rule.
Attempt at a political comeback
Fujimori, who fled to his ancestral homeland Japan from Peru in 2000 after a massive graft scandal toppled his government, had hoped that moving to Chile from Japan could help him launch a political comeback before Peru’s April election.
Fujimori, who straddled a line between dictator and democrat after being elected in a popular vote but dissolving Congress in 1992, denies any wrongdoing and says he is a victim of political persecution.
Fujimori’s daughter Keiko is expected to register the 67-year-old ex-president later on Friday as a candidate for Peru’s next presidential election. The deadline is Jan. 9, but most political analysts expect his candidacy to be rejected.
Many poor Peruvians idealize Fujimori as a heroic figure who ended a bloody insurgency by Shining Path rebels in the early 1990s, curtailed hyperinflation and built schools and hospitals in remote areas neglected by previous governments.
He has between 15 to 20 percent of voter support, according to recent polls.
Fujimori’s younger brother Santiago is also expected to register as a candidate.
What about bail?
“The first thing his lawyers will do now is to fight to get him out of detention and on bail,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas for Human Rights Watch.
In Lima, Fujimori’s lawyer Cesar Nakazaki, told local radio that no bail motion had been filed.
“We have not presented any request for bail and so no such thing has been denied,” he said.
Peru emphasized in its extradition request the risks of releasing the ex-president at this stage in the proceedings because he could flee the country.
For the extradition request to proceed, Peru, in addition to fulfilling diplomatic protocol, must prove that its evidence is not politically motivated and that it is sufficient to launch a criminal prosecution in Chile.
Fujimori’s extradition is to be considered under Chile’s old criminal code, dating back to 1906, and it could be up to a year before there is a resolution either way.
“This is the beginning of a process that could be quite long and complex and convoluted,” said Vivanco, of Human Rights Watch. “The rules of the game that are going to be applied are based on the old code of criminal procedure.”
The 12 boxes of evidence against Fujimori submitted by Peru involve 10 corruption cases and two of the most serious human rights abuse allegations against him, including the authorization of death squads.