- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

LIMA, Peru | A special tribunal convicted former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori of murder and kidnapping on Tuesday and sentenced him to 25 years in prison, saying he authorized a government death squad during the Shining Path insurgency.

The 70-year-old former leader, who remains popular for rescuing Peru from the brink of economic and political collapse in the early 1990s, was convicted of what the court called “crimes against humanity,” including 25 murders by a military hit squad.

Presiding Judge Cesar San Martin told a hushed courtroom there was no question Fujimori authorized the creation of the Colina unit, which the court said killed at least 50 people during its 15 months as the state crushed the fanatical Shining Path rebels.

Fujimori, who proclaimed his innocence in a roar when the 15-month trial began, apparently anticipated a guilty verdict.

He barely looked up as it was read, sitting alone taking notes during the three-hour proceedings at the Lima police base where he has been held and tried since being extradited from Chile in late 2007.

His uttered only four words: “I move to nullify” before turning, smiling and waving to the audience sitting behind him behind windows.

His daughter Keiko, a 33-year-old congresswoman and potential presidential candidate, said the sentence and conviction were foreordained and “full of hate and vengeance.”

She said it would only strengthen her movement and called on supporters to peacefully take to the streets.

“Fujimorism will continue to advance. Today we're first in the polls and will continue to be so,” she told supporters. The lawmaker is among front-runners in opinion surveys for the 2011 presidential race and has vowed to pardon her father if elected.

The son of Japanese immigrants, Fujimori had faced a maximum of 30 years in prison.

Outside the police base, pro- and anti-Fujimori activists fought each other with sticks, fists and rocks after the verdict was announced, with chants of “Fujimori innocent!” and “Fujimori killer!” shouted by rival bands.

Some 30 relatives of victims clashed with about 500 Fujimori supporters. Riot police broke up the melee, and no serious injuries were reported.

Although none of the trial's 80 witnesses directly accused Fujimori of ordering killings, kidnappings or disappearances, the court said he bore responsibility by allowing the creation of an illegal killing apparatus.

The court said Fujimori's disgraced intelligence chief and close collaborator, Vladimiro Montesinos, was directly in charge of the Colina unit.

Fujimori has already been sentenced to six years in prison for abuse of power and still faces two corruption trials, the first scheduled to begin in May, on charges including bribing lawmakers and paying off a TV station.

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