Ex-president will return to Peru to stand trial

SANTIAGO, Chile — Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori will be extradited to Peru to face human-rights and corruption charges related to his 1990-2000 presidency, Chile's Supreme Court ruled Friday.

A five-judge Supreme Court panel approved Peru's request that Fujimori be returned to stand trial on charges that he knew and approved a clandestine death squad, illegally tapped telephones, illegally transferred public money to his spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, bribed legislators for support and journalists for favorable coverage, and illegally seized potentially incriminating documents, videotapes and other material.

The government of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has promised a quick extradition, and Fujimori's attorneys said the ex-president would be sent back to Peru within 48 hours. Chilean authorities said Fujimori would be flown to the Chilean coastal town of Arica and handed over to Peruvian Interpol agents at the border town of Chacalluta.

The former president was expected to arrive Saturday in the Peruvian capital of Lima, where rallies both against and in support of him are expected, said Mario Munive, a columnist and editor at the Peruvian newspaper La Republica.

Fujimori told the television news channel CNN en Espanol on Friday that his extradition to Peru was part of his plan to return to his native country with fewer charges against him.

"This step was considered by me necessary, indispensable," Fujimori said. "Each one of these accusations will be clarified totally in the process."

A 1932 extradition treaty between Chile and Peru allows Fujimori to be tried in Peru only for the seven cases that Chile's Supreme Court approved, and not for dozens of other crimes he allegedly committed. Peruvian prosecutors can add more charges only if Chile's Supreme Court approves them as part of another extradition order.

Fujimori will be tried in a special federal court with possible appeal to Peru's Supreme Court, said Monica Feria, an international law expert from Peru. He faces 20 years in prison if he's convicted as the intellectual author of the murders attributed to the death squad and lesser sentences for corruption charges.

The Chilean court's decision, which can't be appealed, ends nearly two years of uncertainty that began when the 69-year-old ex-president showed up in Chile by surprise in November 2005 on a private plane from Japan, where he'd been in exile since 2000.

Human rights advocates and attorneys for Peru celebrated the decision as the first time a former head of state has been extradited back to his country to face prosecution on human rights charges.

"The message this case is sending to the world is that the space for impunity for perpetrators of gross human-rights violations, especially for former heads of state, is narrowing," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, the executive director of the Americas wing of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.

The decision also ended Chile's record of rejecting extradition requests. Before Fujimori's arrival, Chile had refused to extradite two men, Eduardo Calmell del Solar and Daniel Borobio, whom Peru had accused of illicit association and influence-peddling during Fujimori's reign.

Gisela Ortiz said Friday's ruling was an important step in a long struggle to bring Fujimori to justice. Her brother Enrique was abducted from his college dormitory in July 1992 by the Colina Group — a paramilitary death squad that's been held responsible for the murders of 25 suspected dissidents during the early 1990s — and later found dead.

"This finishes one chapter, but it's the beginning of another big chapter for our country," Gisela Ortiz said. "It will be a test for all of us Peruvians."

Fujimori, an unknown agronomist who came out of nowhere to win the presidency in 1990, was admired for taming hyperinflation and defeating the leftist Shining Path guerrilla group, which had brutally battled Peru's government throughout the 1980s.

Yet he also closed the country's Congress in 1992 and resorted to bloody tactics to weed out suspected dissidents.

Facing corruption accusations, he fled to Japan in 2000 during an official trip to Asia and faxed in his resignation. As a Peruvian of Japanese descent, he was able to claim Japanese citizenship, and this year he made an unsuccessful bid for a seat in Japan's senate while he was in Chile awaiting extradition to Peru.

His return threatens to complicate the prospects of Peruvian President Alan Garcia, who's depended on legislators from Fujimori's party to pass legislation.

"There's fear of Fujimori's return in many sectors here, both in the left and the right," newspaper columnist Munive said. "It will totally change the shape of politics here and will complicate things for Garcia, because the Fujimoristas are very close allies to the president."

Friday's decision reversed a ruling in July by Chilean Supreme Court Judge Orlando Alvarez that had rejected all the charges of the extradition request. Alvarez had argued that Peruvian attorneys had failed to prove Fujimori's connection to the crimes and the statue of limitations on some charges had run out.

The Supreme Court panel, however, found that witness testimony and other evidence suggested that Fujimori had a role in seven of the 13 cases brought against him.

(Hughes is a McClatchy Newspapers special correspondent. Chang reported from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.)