Former Peru president gets six years for bribery

 

PERU’S DISGRACED former president, Alberto Fujimori, has been sentenced to six years in jail by the country’s supreme court following his conviction on bribery and wiretapping charges.

Fujimori (71) already faces spending the rest of his life in jail after being handed a 25-year sentence earlier this year for gross human-rights abuses during his decade in power from 1990 to 2000.

He pleaded guilty to using bribery and phone-tapping to secure support for his party in congress and the media.

The sentence brings to an end the last of four trials for abuse of power during Fujimori’s time in office.

Despite the former president’s guilty plea, his lawyer said he would appeal the decision.

Prosecutors said they would also appeal the sentence, which they described as lenient.

Local observers believe Fujimori pleaded guilty to avoid a drawn-out trial that would have kept the corruption of his government in the spotlight for months and possibly undermine the presidential ambitions of his daughter.

Keiko Fujimori, already a member of congress, is leading opinion polls for the country’s next presidential race, not due until 2011.

One of her main pledges is to grant her father a pardon if elected.

Despite his convictions, Fujimori still has significant support in Peru. He is remembered for overseeing the defeat of the Shining Path, a fanatical Maoist guerrilla movement whose insurgency had by the late 1980s cost tens of thousands of lives and brought the Peruvian economy to the verge of collapse.

His economic shock-therapy policy was also credited with bringing hyperinflation under control and laying the basis for several years of economic growth in the mid-1990s.

The memory of these twin successes has led many Peruvians to overlook the authoritarianism and rampant corruption that came to mark his rule.

Fujimori was forced to flee office in 2000 following protests at rigged elections designed to hand him a third term in office.

He spent five years in exile in Japan, from where his parents had emigrated to Peru.

He was popular in his ancestral homeland thanks to his handling of a siege of the Japanese embassy in Lima by a small left-wing guerrilla group in 1997. After 126 days, Fujimori’s special forces stormed the building, killing all 14 guerrillas for the loss of just one hostage.

Fujimori was arrested on a Peruvian warrant while on a visit to Chile in 2005 and extradited to Peru in 2007 to face trial.

A three-judge panel found him guilty of personally ordering two notorious massacres carried out by military death squads during the conflict with the Shining Path, one of which saw nine students and a professor from a teacher-training college disappear after an army raid in 1993.

The army later revealed the 10 were tortured, murdered and secretly buried on the orders of Fujimori’s intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos.

During the 1990s, Montesinos was Peru’s second-most powerful figure and Fujimori’s most important ally. Earlier this year Fujimori was convicted of paying his former spy chief a $15 million (€10 million) bribe.

Fujimori’s hold on power slipped when the web of bribery and corruption which Montesinos had used to maintain it was revealed in 2000.

The former spy chief was also discovered to be involved in drug trafficking, arms smuggling and graft, for which he is now serving a 20-year sentence.

Ironically, Montesinos is serving his time in the same prison as the Shining Path leadership he helped defeat.

He still faces charges of ordering the summary execution of the guerrillas involved in the Japanese embassy siege.