Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori has suffered a set of legal losses in recent days, with the unanimous decision by the Supreme Court on Monday to refuse to review his 2009 conviction and 25-year sentence. This follows a ruling last week by a lower court that denied his request to change his sentence of imprisonment to house arrest.
On Monday, the Supreme Court, led by Justice Javier Villa Stein in the Criminal Court, unanimously declared inadmissible a request to review Fujimori’s 25-year prison sentence, which was handed down in April 2009 when he was convicted of ‘command responsibility’ for the deaths of 25 people by death squads in what are known as the 1992 La Cantuta and Barrios Altos cases.
Villa Stein was reported as saying that the Supreme Court’s ruling “neither sanctified the sentence nor demonized it.”
“We are only saying that this sentence, with these arguments, cannot be revised,” Villa Stein said, according to daily El Comercio.
“We can be opposed to the sentence, but we have to respect what the law says and there are no grounds [in this case].”
Fujimori’s defense attorney, William Castillo, based the request for a review on a comparison between responsibilities attributed to Fujimori and, in a separate trial, to Fujimori’s spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, on the Cantuta and Barrios Altos deaths.
But former Attorney General Jose Pelaez, a state attorney at the time of the 2009 trial, said the extraordinary recourse Fujimori’s lawyer was requesting could only be granted as an exception when there is new proof of the accused party’s innocence. “In the Fujimori case I am sure there is no new proof that was not heard during the trial.”
Justice Villa Stein’s decision came as a surprise to those who openly doubted his impartiality and pointed to his “ferocious” criticism of Justice San Martin in the 2009 Fujimori case, and his open disdain towards human rights groups. Both the Legal Defense Institute, IDL, and the country’s leading human rights groups had requested that Villa Stein be recused from hearing this newest request for a review.
When the Supreme Court ruling was made known, Fujimori’s attorney said “We have lost Villa Stein as a Fujimorista.”
“It’s not true that I am a Fujimorista, I never worked with the Fujimoristas, as some parlor pinks have done,” Villa Stein said in a press conference.
The Supreme Court ruling comes just a few days after judges rejected Fujimori’s request to finish the remainder of his sentence under house arrest. The judges ruled that house arrest is only for individuals who are under investigation or pending charges, not for those who have already been sentenced.
Fujimori ruled Peru from 1990 until his administration collapsed in 2000 and he fled to Japan. He tried to return to Peru years later to make a political comeback, but was arrested in Chile and then extradited to Lima. He was sentenced in 2009 on the human rights crimes, as well as on several counts of corruption in a series of subsequent trials. Under Peruvian law, there is no accumulation of sentences and the convicted felon only serves the longest.
Fujimori is imprisoned in a special facility in the Dirandro police complex in northeast Lima, where hearings are currently being held in his trial for misappropriation of military funds that he channeled via Vladimiro Montesinos to finance his second re-election campaign —the funds were used to pay newspapers and tabloid start-ups to toe his government and campaign line.
Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko, and political allies have led a number of campaigns and legal procedures to release the former President or allow him to serve out his sentence at home. His family also requested a presidential pardon from President Humala, but this was denied. Keiko lost to President Ollanta Humala in the 2011 elections but leads Peru’s biggest opposition party and polls show her as the favorite for the 2016 elections.
However, a rift between Fujimori and his daughter is growing as Fujimori tries to reclaim political power as the founder while Keiko is trying to distance the party from the more hard-line elements of his former government.