Peru Says Japan Obligated to Return Fujimori

Reuters -- 23 February 2001

by Jude Webber

LIMA, Peru - Peru said on Friday Japan is obligated to return disgraced ex-President Alberto Fujimori after congressional charges of dereliction of duty opened the way for a criminal trial.

The prospect of a diplomatic and legal tug-of-war is looming between Peru, which Fujimori ruled from 1990 to 2000, and Japan, the ancestral homeland that granted him dual citizenship. Peru and Japan have no extradition treaty.

Japan has made it clear it will not hand over Fujimori any time soon.

``The decision taken ... by Congress should induce the Japanese authorities to consider that Mr. Fujimori should return home to give account of himself,'' Prime Minister Javier Perez de Cuellar told reporters.

He spoke hours after Congress voted to charge Fujimori with abandoning office and dereliction of duty after he fled to Tokyo last November to escape a corruption storm triggered by his fugitive ex-spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos.

Because Fujimori was president, any criminal charges must start out in Congress. Now it has approved the charges, he loses the five years of immunity enjoyed by ex-presidents and is also disqualified from public office for 10 years.

The charges now go to a criminal prosecutor who is expected to open a case within weeks.

That could lead to further charges. Jose Ugaz, the state attorney investigating Montesinos on a string of charges ranging from corruption to ordering death squads, says Fujimori should face the same charges.

Ugaz has said it is inconceivable that Fujimori was unaware of what Montesinos -- who allegedly ran a mafia of corruption penetrating Peru's courts, Congress, military and media -- was up to as his top aide throughout a decade in power.

Peru's attorney general's office said last week it wanted to press charges of embezzlement and misuse of public funds against Fujimori -- charges he denies.

Fujimori was sensationally revealed after he fled to have had dual Peruvian and Japanese citizenship and Japan does not have a policy of extraditing its own nationals.

But Perez de Cuellar, a veteran diplomat and former U.N. secretary general, said Tokyo would soon have no choice.

``We have an ambassador who is in contact with the Japanese foreign ministry every day to assemble the evidence that makes it obligatory for the Japanese government to facilitate Fujimori's return to Peru,'' he said.

``Predominantly Peruvian''

Peru's justice minister, Diego Garcia Sayan, on a trip to Washington, told a television talk show the subject of ''predominant nationality'' would now come into play.

``When a person has more than one nationality ... courts can determine which is their predominant nationality. In the case of Fujimori, there is not the slightest doubt,'' he said.

``He is someone who not only was born in Peru, who lived all his life in Peru. Someone who practically doesn't speak Japanese and in addition was president ... and received in Japan by the Japanese government as representative of another country, Peru,'' Garcia Sayan added.

Political analyst Ernesto Velit said Congress' decision now gave Peru legal ammunition.

``But I don't expect the proceedings to be easy. In Japan, the foreign ministry will have to make a report to parliament, and it would be up to (the Japanese parliament) to approve extradition,'' he told Reuters.

Garcia Sayan said he had asked Washington for ''extraordinary collaboration'' over Montesinos, widely believed to have had links with the CIA.

Montesinos, who has reportedly had plastic surgery in Venezuela, sparked a massive political crisis last September when a video surfaced of him apparently bribing a lawmaker.