Peru's Fujimori Charged with 'Horrendous' Murder

Reuters -- 24 May 2001

by Jude Webber

LIMA, Peru - Peru's attorney general said on Thursday she had presented murder charges against disgraced ex-President Alberto Fujimori, alleging he not only knew about a 1991 massacre of 15 people by a military death squad, but congratulated the killers afterwards and paid them bonuses.

Nelly Calderon told RPP radio she had presented the charges to Congress late on Wednesday accusing Fujimori as ``co-author'' of the massacre in the Barrios Altos district of Lima.

The attack, in which party-goers including an 8-year-old boy purportedly mistaken for leftist rebels were shot by masked gunmen, is one of the most notorious cases of alleged human rights abuses under Fujimori's 1990-2000 rule.

``After the killings ... Alberto Fujimori went to the headquarters of the National Intelligence Service and, in recognition of the efficiency of the work completed by this criminal group, decorated, congratulated and paid the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes for special services in intelligence services,'' Calderon said in the charge sheet.

``This obviously leads to the conclusion that he had full knowledge of the events, and other actions committed by this death squad and would have had the power to say whether they went ahead or not,'' the charge sheet added.

It described the killings as ``cold blooded'' and ''premeditated'' and cited evidence from three members of the squad, dubbed Grupo Colina, and five survivors, among others.

All charges against Fujimori must start in Congress. If it decides there is a case to answer, full proceedings can begin.

``This is very serious,'' said Daniel Estrada, chairman of a congressional sub-commission investigating Fujimori for alleged murder, forced disappearances and terrorism.

Murder is worst of multiplying charges

The Barrios Altos charges are the most serious against Fujimori to date. The ex-president, in self-exile in Japan, was fired as ``morally unfit'' to rule in November in a corruption crisis sparked by his spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos.

He already faces charges of dereliction of duty but denies involvement in illicit activities attributed to Montesinos, who is believed to be in Venezuela, on the run from charges ranging from illicit arms and drugs deals to running death squads.

Fujimori has said he will not return to Peru, where he believes he would not receive a fair trial, and is protected from extradition by dual Japanese and Peruvian citizenship.

State attorney Jose Ugaz, who is investigating Montesinos' alleged web of corruption, told reporters, ``There is no doubt'' Fujimori faced charges for which he ought to be extradited.

But Japan does not usually extradite its nationals and it and Peru anyway have no extradition treaty. However, Ugaz said charges of rights abuses could be pursued by a Japanese judge.

Congresswoman Martha Chavez, one of Fujimori's staunchest supporters, told reporters that officers had told her they were ''pressured to blame Fujimori. They were even offered money.''

Francisco Tudela, who served as foreign minister under Fujimori, said it was vital the evidence was watertight.

``If there were indubitable evidence that (Fujimori) gave orders to carry out these acts, then there would be room for a criminal trial,'' Tudela -- a lawyer who did not hold any political office when the 1991 massacre was carried out -- told CPN radio. ``While it is true there are real witnesses there are also witnesses who lie,'' he added.

Grupo Colina was allegedly formed by Montesinos to combat rising attacks by rebel group, Shining Path, in the 1990s.

One of the alleged leaders of Grupo Colina, Maj. Santiago Martin Rivas, was quoted this week as admitting for the first time that the squad had committed the Barrios Altos killings, and the kidnap and murder of nine students and a professor at La Cantuta university, known as a rebel training ground.

Martin Rivas and others were convicted of the La Cantuta killings in 1994 but amnestied by Fujimori the following year.