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Fujimori faces extradition after losing in court

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori on Tuesday lost a bid to be released from jail while he fights extradition to Peru to face charges of corruption and human rights abuses.
/ Source: news services

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori on Tuesday lost a bid to be released from jail while he fights extradition to Peru to face charges of corruption and human rights abuses during his decade-long autocratic regime.

Fujimori, 67, who had been arrested Monday after arriving in Santiago hours after a surprise visit from Japan, must remain under arrest as Peru pursues his extradition on 21 corruption and human rights charges, said Supreme Court Justice Orlando Alvarez.

He faces charges ranging from abuse of power and corruption to sanctioning a paramilitary death squad accused of two massacres of suspected rebel collaborators in which 25 people were killed, including an 8-year-old boy.

Peruvian prosecutors are seeking a 30-year sentence and a $28.6 million fine for his alleged role in the death squad killings, the most serious charge he faces.

Moving quickly, Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo sent a high-level delegation to Chile, led by Interior Minister Romulo Pizarro and a top prosecutor.

Alvarez had ordered Fujimori's arrest at the request of the Peruvian government.

Peruvian authorities have 60 days to ask for Fujimori's extradition.

‘No more than two or three weeks’
Peruvian Attorney General Antonio Maldonado told National Television that lawyers would take less than two months to get documents together, have them approved by Peru's courts and government and file the request.

"I understand (it will take) no more than two or three weeks," he said. "Peru's justice system expects to have thefugitive Fujimori before the courts as soon as possible."

Fujimori said Monday he went to Chile in a bid to return to Peru and run in April presidential elections, despite the charges against him and a congressional ruling banning him from holding public office until 2011.

Although reviled by many Peruvians, Fujimori's candidacy enjoys support from 15 percent of the population.

He was elected in 1990 when the Shining Path Maoist guerrilla group was wreaking havoc in Peru.

He defeated the rebels and also tamed a hyperinflationary economy but angered even his supporters by trying to seize excessive power.

The charges against him bar him from political office, but he has said he is confident the cases will all be thrown out.

His former spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, is in prison after being convicted of corruption after videotapes surfaced of him bribing officials and businessmen.

Cesar Nakazaki, a Peruvian lawyer for Fujimori arrived in Santiago on Tuesday and told reporters that he was confident that all the cases against his client would be thrown out because due process had not been followed.

"Those 21 charges are nullified, because he wasn't guaranteed his right to a defense," Nakazaki said.

Questions about Fujimori’s return
His arrest left many wondering why he risked his freedom by leaving Japan, where his Japanese citizenship prevented his extradition and where he had remained in a protected exile for five years after resigning from the Peruvian presidency amid a corruption scandal.

Some thought Fujimori was counting on Chile's Supreme Court to block his extradition, as it has done for other former leaders who have sought refuge here.

"He knows Chile's Supreme Court almost certainly wouldn't authorize the extradition of a person with political prominence," said Ricardo Israel, a Chilean political scientist, noting that the high court last year rejected Argentina's request for the extradition of former Argentine President Carlos Menem.

The court has also refused to extradite an Argentine publicist wanted in Peru for running smear campaigns against Fujimori's opponents and a Peruvian newspaper publisher accused of taking bribes to support him, Israel said. Former Peruvian Foreign Minister Diego Garcia said Fujimori made a big mistake.

"He miscalculated," Garcia said. "I don't think he made such a long trip only to be arrested in Chile. I don't think he considered that possibility."

Even Chilean Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker said Fujimori made "a very imprudent, irresponsible decision to come here at his time."

But he rejected calls for the former leader's expulsion to a third country, saying, "the situation is in the hands of the courts."

Japan, meanwhile, may ask Chile to allow Japanese Embassy officials to meet with Fujimori, the Yomiuri newspaper reported, citing unidentified government officials.

Chilean President Ricardo Lagos said he did not expect Fujimori's arrival to "affect the normal process of our relations" with Peru, including efforts to resolve a dispute over sea boundaries.