Peru's Fujimori: It's Too Dangerous to Return Home

Reuters -- 12 December 2000

TOKYO - Peru's disgraced ex-president, Alberto Fujimori, said dangers at home prevented his return but he would keep his Peruvian nationality despite also holding Japanese citizenship, domestic media said on Wednesday.

It was the first time that the strongman who governed Peru for a decade, before going into exile last month in Japan, had said he would retain his Peruvian nationality.

Japan's Justice Ministry confirmed a day earlier that Fujimori had Japanese nationality, a status that allows him to stay in the land of his forefathers and probably avoid facing investigators in Peru.

``I am staying in Japan because there is absolutely no guarantee for my personal security in Peru,'' he told Kyodo news agency in a statement.

Fujimori said he had no intention, however, of giving up his Peruvian nationality, noting that Peruvian law recognizes dual nationality.

The decision raises the prospect of a diplomatic row if Lima's new government asks Tokyo to hand over the former president to face a probe into the scandals that sent him spinning out of office.

No Plans To Return To Testify

Fujimori resigned as president and was then sacked by Peru's Congress days after entering Japan on a diplomatic visa in November.

Fujimori told Kyodo he would not return to Peru to testify on an official investigation into slush funds allegedly controlled by Vladimiro Montesinos, the former Peruvian intelligence chief and a close aide whose downfall led to Fujimori's own disgrace.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said on Tuesday that Tokyo would deal with any demand for Fujimori's extradition in accordance with Japanese law.

Japan's law does not allow the extradition of its nationals.

Even if Fujimori has dual nationality, that would not affect his status as a Japanese national, Fukuda said.

The leader of a congressional investigation in Peru said on Monday that the Congress was prepared to use all the tools of international justice to force Fujimori to testify over his links to his former spy chief, who is wanted on corruption charges.

Diplomatic Headache

Japanese Justice Ministry officials had previously said that if Fujimori could prove that his parents were Japanese and that his name had been registered in the ancestral ``koseki,'' or family record, he could stay in Japan as long as he wants.

An official in the small southwestern Japanese town where Fujimori's parents were born had already told Reuters that his name had been entered in the koseki after his parents emigrated to Peru in the early 1930s.

The difficulty for Japan is compounded not only by Fujimori's possession of Japanese nationality but by the fact that Tokyo feels beholden to him for rescuing diplomats and other hostages held by leftist guerrillas at the Japanese ambassador's home in Lima in a 1997 commando raid.

Peru under Fujimori was also one of the biggest recipients of Japanese aid and one of 14 countries that received loans from Japan on an annual basis.

Fujimori has refused to return to Peru, saying he had no guarantees for his personal safety or that he would receive a fair hearing in a government now led by one of his veteran opponents in Congress: interim President Valentin Paniagua.

Polls show that many Peruvians believe Fujimori is trying to hide his links with Montesinos and opposition lawmakers have accused the ex-president of financially benefiting from the spy-chief's web of power.