Fujimori could be hanged in Japan

LIMA, Peru, Reuters

Peru’s disgraced ex President Albert Fujimori, who has taken refuge in Japan from spiraling corruption probes, could go to the gallows if found guilty of human rights charges under Japanese law, a Peruvian legislator said on Wednesday.

Fujimori, who fled to his ancestral homeland last November and was fired by Congress as “morally unfit,” has been charged with dereliction of duty, but more serious charges — including overseeing a death squad — are in the works.

Human rights groups and a state attorney also say he ordered the executions of 14 Marxist rebels in 1997 when commandos stormed the Japanese ambassador’s residence — technically Japanese soil — in Lima to end a hostage siege.

Peru has exhumed the bodies to investigate the charges, which Fujimori denies.

So far the former leader, who revealed in Japan that he has dual Peruvian and Japanese citizenship, is sheltered from extradition. Japan does not usually extradite its nationals and the two countries have no extradition treaty.

“If Fujimori says he was Japanese his whole life, and he committed … those crimes outside his homeland, then the Japanese penal code still applies,” Heriberto Benitez told Reuters.

The Independent Moralizing Front (JIM) legislator said he was quoting from a translation of a clause in Japan’s penal code that dictates death by hanging, or life in prison with forced labor, for citizens who commit or assist murder inside or outside Japan.

“Fujimori needs to decide if he wants to be judged by Japanese penal laws or whether he wants to admit he was Peruvian all along and come back here with guarantees of a trial where, if he can prove he’s innocent, he will be acquitted,” Benitez added.

Fujimori sought refuge in Japan last year at the height of a corruption crisis which was sparked when a secretly taped video showed his influential spy chief, Vladimir Montesinos, giving cash to an opposition politician.

Montesinos, who manipulated Peru’s courts, Congress, media and military for a decade, now awaits trial on charges ranging from murder to embezzlement that could land him life in jail.

In May, Attorney General Nelly Calderon accused Fujimori of overseeing a notorious 1991 massacre where 15 people — including an 8-year-old boy — reportedly mistaken for leftist rebels were killed by the “Grupo Colina” military death squad.

A Congressional commission last month accused Fujimori of being a “co-author” of that killing, along with another massacre a year later of nine students and a professor at a Lima university. Fujimori has denied responsibility.

Both sets of charges must be approved by Peru’s new Congress, which was sworn in on Monday ahead of President-elect Alejandro Toledo’s inauguration on July 28.

Benitez said a Peruvian lawyer in Tokyo had sent him the Japanese criminal code.