Peru’s Fujimori gets 6 years in corruption case

But daughter vows to pardon him if she is elected

Peru’s former president Alberto Fujimori, who is 71 and ailing, addressed the court after being sentenced yesterday. Peru’s former president Alberto Fujimori, who is 71 and ailing, addressed the court after being sentenced yesterday. (Justice Palace via Reuters)
By Andrew Whalen
Associated Press / October 1, 2009

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LIMA - A court imposed a six-year prison sentence yesterday on disgraced former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, who already faced the prospect of spending the rest of his life in a cell after three previous convictions. He also was fined $9 million for authorizing wiretaps and bribes.

The sentencing concluded two years of televised trials that forced a country still divided over its bloody past to relive the darkest days of Fujimori’s authoritarian, corruption-riddled administration.

Animated and unrepentant in early trials, the ailing 71-year-old former president appeared resigned in his later hearings. TV cameras often caught Fujimori sleeping at his table alone in the center of the courtroom.

Asked by the presiding judge yesterday if he accepted his sentence in the corruption trial, Fujimori stood up and quietly told the court, “I move to nullify.’’

On Monday, Fujimori pleaded guilty to the charges, a decision his lawyer says was based on the belief that he could not get a fair trial before the special Supreme Court panel.

Since Fujimori’s 2007 extradition to Peru from Chile, the three-judge panel has convicted him of crimes against humanity for authorizing military death squads, of abuse of power for an illegal search, and of embezzlement for paying his spy chief $15 million in state funds.

Prison terms are served concurrently in Peru, so the 25-year sentence imposed in the murder and kidnapping trial is the maximum he could serve. Arrested in Chile in 2005, that would leave Fujimori in jail until 2030.

He could be freed far earlier, however, if his daughter Keiko is elected president in 2011.

She has vowed to pardon her father and leads some recent campaign polls, largely because Fujimori remains popular for crushing the Maoist Shining Path rebels during his decade in power.

Keiko did not attend the sentencing, but her lieutenant, congressman Carlos Raffo, told reporters outside the court that the “unjust’’ trials were a “necessary step in the process of Alberto Fujimori’s return and rectification in Peru.’’

“Now it’s our turn,’’ said Raffo. “The Fujimori movement’s response will be political.’’

Monday’s guilty plea allowed Fujimori to avoid an arduous trial that could damage his health and Keiko’s campaign by reminding voters of his regime’s rampant corruption.

While Fujimori’s lawyer, Cesar Nakazaki, told judges he was in complete compliance with the sentence, outside the court he said the panel’s rulings are politically motivated.

Last week, the Supreme Court rejected a suit by Fujimori that attempted to remove the judges.

Presiding Judge Cesar San Martin called the suit shameful.

“We will reject, as we must, shameful personal attacks that seek to tarnish our integrity with the sole intent of discrediting’’ the rulings, San Martin said at the close of yesterday’s proceedings.

Javier Diez Canseco, a former opposition congressmen during Fujimori’s regime and a wiretap victim, praised the sentence but said he regretted Fujimori’s “political maneuvering.’’

“They are using all the money they robbed from the country to paint all of Peru’’ with political propaganda for Keiko’s election, Diez Canseco told reporters outside the court.

Along with the six-year sentence, the court ordered Fujimori to pay $8 million to the government and $1 million to be shared among the 28 people whose phones were tapped.