Chilean Prosecutor Recommends Fujimori's Extradition

Chilean policemen guard the entrance to the "Hacienda de Chicureo," where former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori is under house arrest in Santiago. (Photo: Martin Bernetti / AFP-Getty Images)

Chilean Supreme Court prosecutor Mónica Maldonado last week officially recommended that former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori be extradited to Peru to face charges of corruption and human rights abuses.

Maldonado, who for health reasons had postponed her much-anticipated recommendation by nearly a month-and-a-half, found there to be enough evidence in 11 of the 12 cases originally presented against Fujimori to warrant the ex-president's extradition.

"It appears to this prosecutor that the requirements are there to justify the Peruvian government's request that Peruvian citizen Alberto Fujimori be extradited," Maldonado told reporters.

Nine of the 11 cases involve allegations of corruption. The other two relate to the so-called La Cantuta and Barrios Altos massacres, both committed by an infamous government-backed death squad known as the Colina Group. Prosecutors suggest that Fujimori had direct knowledge of and may have even ordered the group's anti-subversion operations. In total, 25 people, including a small child and a professor, were murdered in the La Cantuta and Barrios Altos massacres, which took place in 1991 and 1992, respectively.

"This is what we always thought would happen, although we maintain the position that there are other crimes for which [Fujimori] should be charged," Raul Paiba, president of a Santiago-based group called the Committee of Peruvian Refugees in Chile, told the Santiago Times. "We won't back down. We'll continue demanding that the Peruvian legal system try Fujimori."

A former university teacher, Paiba came to Chile in 1992, about a year after being arrested on what he claims were trumped-up terrorism charges. His flight to Chile also took place just two months after Fujimori orchestrated what has since been dubbed a "self-coup." In April 1992, the then president shut down the Peruvian congress, suspended the constitution and removed many of the country's judiciary personnel.

While awaiting Maldonado's announcement on Thursday morning, Paiba and a handful of other activists staged a modest demonstration in front of the Supreme Court building.

"I simply consider [Fujimori] the most dishonest character in Peru's history, which is reason enough for my being here," said Fabricio Soto, one of the protestors.

A few blocks away, on the corner of Catedral and Puente in downtown Santiago—a daily gathering point for Peruvian day laborers—a Peruvian immigrant named Juan Camaney had this to say about the case: "It seems to me that [Fujimori] should be sent to Peru to pay for all the harm that he's done there … for all the deaths that he caused."

"People reject Fujimori because he killed innocent people, because he stole money," he added. "There are some who still support him, but not many. Most of them are people who were with him in the government, who got rich because of him. Those people continue supporting him."

Maldonado's recommendation and accompanying 52-page report now go to Supreme Court Judge Orlando Alvarez, the person responsible for delivering the court's final verdict in the case. Although Álvarez is by no means obliged to follow the prosecutor's suggestion, unwritten protocol suggests that he will. From there the case is likely to go to an appeals court, meaning that even if Judge Álvarez follows Maldonado's lead and rules in favor of extradition, Fujimori won't be leaving Chile anytime in the near future.

Fujimori governed Peru from 1990 to 2000 before internal pressures forced his flight to Japan, where he famously tendered his resignation via fax. He remained in Japan for five years, taking advantage of his Japanese citizenship—something he inherited from his parents, both Japanese immigrants to Peru—to protect himself not only from requests that he be extradited to Peru, but also from two separate international arrest warrants.

Then, on Nov. 6, 2005, for reasons that are not entirely clear, Fujimori flew to Chile, where once his presence became known police detained him. The ex-president has been in legal limbo ever since.

Peruvian authorities originally asked that Fujimori be surrendered to them. Chile, however, opted to place the decision in the hands of its Supreme Court, following protocol set by a 1932 extradition treaty between the two countries.

As stipulated in the treaty, the court will make its eventual decision based on whether there is sufficient evidence against Fujimori—not necessarily to convict, but enough to justify (from a Chilean legal perspective) the indictments against him. In other words, Peruvian prosecutors need to have shown that the crimes for which Fujimori has been charged in Peru are equally serious crimes in Chile.

Fujimori is currently living in an apartment in Santiago's upscale Las Condes borough and—despite the pending case against him—is free to come and go as he pleases. His residence happens to be just a few blocks from the Japanese Embassy, where his critics fear he may seek refuge should the Chile courts eventually rule to extradite him.

From The Santiago Times.