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Fujimori on trial
Kelly Phenicie
2/7/2008
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Legal proceedings against former president polarizes Peruvians as evidence is admitted to the court.

The human rights trial of former President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) is speeding along in just its second month, a milestone for rights activists who have long-sought to bring the ex-president to justice for crimes stemming from his decade-long administration.

Fujimori is facing up to 30 years in prison if he is found guilty of having authorized to two death squad massacres and two kidnappings.

So far, more than 30 witnesses have testified in the first eight weeks of the trial that started on Dec. 10, 2007, without any major obstacles. But some activists are claiming that allies of Fujimori are overstepping their bounds with intimidation against victims of the ex-leader’s government.

In early January, local newspapers reported that lawyer Gloria Cano as well as state prosecutor Avelino Guillén had received death threats for their role in the trial. Both lawyers are acting as prosecutors — Guillén for the state and Cano for the relatives of those murdered at Barrios Altos and La Cantuta — within the same trial.

Norma Espinoza, a witness in the La Cantuta case, said that she had received telephone threats before she gave her testimony and Pedro Supo Sánchez, a former member of the Colina military death squad, which committed the massacres, said in his testimony on Jan. 28, that it was the first time he felt safe talking openly about what he knows.

Supo claimed that he has had various attacks on his family since 2000 and only now, with them outside of Lima, feels he can talk.

Fujimori-allied politicians as well as Fujimori’s lawyer César Nakazaki have denied links to all the threats.

“Politicizing” the trial
A string of recent events have caused some Peruvians to believe that Fujimori supporters are attempting to “politicize” the trial by imposing political consequences on the justice system.

Alberto Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko, recently announced plans to form a new pro-Fujimori party, Fuerza 2011, to prepare for the country’s next presidential elections in that year. She also told the press that she did not rule out a presidential nomination.

During his recent appearance on local television program Cuarto Poder, Fujimori’s son, Kenji, claimed that if the Fujimoristas collect the 1 million signatures necessary to legally register their new party, it would mean a “passport to freedom” for his father.

Santiago Fujimori, the former president’s brother, explained his nephew’s comment to a local radio station by claiming that a guilty verdict for his the ex-leader would mean “civil war.”

Editor-in-chief of daily Peru21, Augusto Álvarez Rodrich, said in a Jan. 28 column that there are two reasons for the new party: to “show the country that there is political backing for past administration,” which would show the Supreme Court the country’s support for the defendant; and, as signaled by Kenji, “to win the presidency in 2011 and later, for his sister Keiko to pardon their father.”

Indeed Fujimori’s chances of being found innocent in the human right trial are looking grim. Witness’ testimonies — especially those of former Colina members — have not been positive for the ex-president, who has already been sentenced to six years for abusing power when he ordered the illegal search of the apartment of Trinidad Becerra, wife of his former top adviser, Vladimiro Montesinos.

At the Jan. 25 hearing, one of the former Colina members, testified that military officers had never been taught to respect human rights and even apologized to the Peruvian people. Rodrich asserts that “not even the witnesses for the defense are helping him.”

Julio Chuqui Aquirre, also a member of Colina, recently testified that he knows Fujimori was aware of the Barrios Altos massacre because the leader of Colina said beforehand, “I’ve already gotten the green light from the Chino,” referring to Fujimori by his nickname.

Courtroom tensions
Uneasiness has also been stewing inside the courtroom itself between Fujimori’s supporters and the relatives of the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta murder victims.

Gisela Ortiz, sister of one of the students killed at La Cantuta and spokesperson for the victims’ families, said in an e-mail interview that “the climate in the courtroom has been difficult because the Fujimoristas make offensive comments about our family members — like calling them terrorists — or about us in a loud voice, as if they want us to hear them.”

Since the courtroom is divided by a wall with glass windows, separating the trial participants from the attendants, neither the judges, lawyers nor defendant are able to hear anything from the observation room.

During one of the witness’ testimonies, Ortiz said that “every time the students and professor [who were killed at La Cantuta] were mentioned, former Congresswoman Carmen Lozada de Gamboa said ‘the terrorists,’ ‘because they were terrorists,’ or ‘they were terrorists, they had to be killed."

Pro-Fujimori Congressman Carlos Raffo, who has attended the hearings, denies the allegations. He claims that human rights organizations are trying to tarnish the Fujimoristas’ reputation by making them look “aggressive.”

Furthermore, he says the accusations have not been proven and that the police and security inside the courtroom have denied the families’ claims.
“It might sound Utopian, but I hope that people change their attitude and that we all learn from this painful experience,” says Ortiz.


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Alberto Fujimori addresses the court. (Photo.www.fujimoriontrial.org)
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