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Peru Court Rejects Fujimori Challenge to 25-Year Jail Term

Aug. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Peru’s Supreme Court didn’t violate the constitution when it sentenced former President Alberto Fujimori to 25 years in prison for directing a government death squad, the nation’s highest court said.

Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal, in a ruling posted on its website yesterday, said it rejected Fujimori’s habeas corpus request as the Supreme Court’s 2009 sentence was “totally constitutional.” Fujimori’s lawyer, Cesar Nakazaki, argued that two of the judges at the original trial weren’t qualified and asked the tribunal to order a review of the sentence.

Fujimori, 73, the country’s first leader to be extradited and tried, was imprisoned for ordering two massacres of 25 people while he was president from 1990 to 2000. The Supreme Court upheld the verdict following an appeal last year.

“The original trial and verdict were absolutely sound,” said Jo-Marie Burt, associate professor of political science at Arlington, Virginia-based George Mason University and an observer at the 2009 trial, in a telephone interview yesterday.

Fujimori’s supporters credit him with ridding Peru of the Maoist guerrilla group, the Shining Path, which killed almost 70,000 people during its 20-year terror campaign, slashing inflation from 7,650 percent to 3.5 percent, and laying the groundwork for Peru’s booming economy, which shrank 5 percent when he took office in 1990.

Fujimori’s government collapsed when his intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, was caught on videotape in 2000 bribing lawmakers.

Calls to Nakazaki seeking comment weren’t immediately returned.

‘Refuse to Accept’

Nakazaki has said he may appeal to international courts, such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, if Fujimori’s conviction isn’t overturned in Peru.

“The Fujimoristas simply refuse to accept the verdict of the highest court in the land,” Burt said. “That’s fully consistent with the way they ran the country for 10 years, basically not acknowledging the judiciary as an independent and autonomous branch of government.”

Fujimori’s daughter, former congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, was narrowly defeated in a June 5 presidential runoff by Ollanta Humala after she failed to dispel concern that she represented a return to the authoritarianism and corruption associated with her father’s rule. Her Fuerza 2011 party is the second-biggest group in congress.

Humala has said he would pardon Fujimori on humanitarian grounds if his health worsens.

Fujimori has had four operations since 1997 to remove cancerous sores from his tongue. He was hospitalized for three days in June on concern a drop in his body weight was the result of a relapse in his tongue cancer.

The former president was returned to jail after doctors said he didn’t have terminal cancer. They attributed his weight loss to depression.

To contact the reporters on this story: John Quigley in Lima at jquigley8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net

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