Low turn-out at Pro-Fujimori rally, trial set to conclude this week

By Annie Thériault

In response to thousands of Peruvians taking to the streets of Lima, demanding that former President Alberto Fujimori be severely punished for committing crimes against humanity, about 1,000 people showed up last week for a pro-Fujimori freedom rally in Lima’s Campo de Marte Park.

Mostly residents of Lima’s poor districts, such as La Victoria, El Augustino and Ate Vitarte, protesters arrived Wednesday night in large buses, and clad in orange and blue T-shirts imprinted with Fujimori’s face and the number “2011” in reference to the upcoming presidential elections.

Three hours after the first Fujimori supporters gathered, the less than 1,000 protesters marched along Lima’s Avenida de la Peruanidad, rallying around a small stage set up for Keiko Fujimori and musical performances.

“There is no proof, and there will never be any proof because my father is innocent,” Keiko Fujimori, the former President’s eldest daughter, told a crowd of supporters.

“The only things dirty about my father are the soles of his shoes, because he spent so much time traveling across Peru,” added Keiko Fujimori. “I’m proud to see you march with fervor and strength. Today, with your affection, with your presence, you are demonstrating that Fujimorismo is still alive.”

Fujimori, 70, has been on trial for more than a year for allegedly sanctioning the Grupo Colina death squad, believed to be responsible for atrocities committed during his 1990-2000 rule. He has been authorized to personally deliver his closing statement next Monday and Wednesday, in what will be the final stretch of a more than year-long marathon trial. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $3 million.

The Colina group machine gunned 15 people, including an 8-year-old boy, in the courtyard of a tenement building in Lima’s Barrios Altos district in 1991 and kidnapped and murdered nine students and one professor at La Cantuta University in 1992 – two days after a car bomb ignited by Maoist Shining Path rebels killed more than 40 people in Lima.

Keiko Fujimori, a 32-year old business administrator and probable candidate for Fujimori’s right-wing party “Alliance for the Future,” was still a college student at Boston University when her father locked her mother out of the presidential palace in response to her going public with corruption allegations against his government. He asked his oldest daughter to return to Peru to serve as first lady, which she did for four years until he fled the country and his government crumbled amid massive corruption scandals in November 2000.

In 2006, while her father was fighting extradition back to Peru from Chile, Keiko Fujimori was elected to Congress with the highest vote total of any candidate. She has repeatedly declared that her father, who is currently standing trial for allegedly sanctioning a paramilitary dead squad during his decade-long authoritarian presidency, has done nothing but promote peace and democracy, defeat terrorism and restore Peru’s economy. She has also promised to pardon him, if she is elected in 2011.

Although a ruling is expected by mid-April, both sides could potentially appeal the final ruling, meaning that the trial – which began in December 2007 – could drag on for several more months.

So far, the prosecution has presented a mountain of circumstantial evidence – including hearsay testimony from ex-Colina Group members – to support its allegation that Fujimori was well aware of and authorized the death squad’s operations, and helped its members avoid real accountability through an Amnesty Law.

Fujimori enacted a controversial amnesty law in 1995 that exonerated all military, police and civilians for any human rights violations committed between May 1982 and June 1995 if they were associated to the counterinsurgency war. The law, argued to be necessary for “national reconciliation,” led to the release of those convicted for the La Cantuta and Barrios Altos massacres.

But in September 2001, the Human Rights Court, at the request of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, sentenced that Fujimori’s Amnesty Laws had no legal standing.

Fujimori has been held in Lima since he was extradited from Chile in September 2007 to face trial.

He is already serving a six-year prison term for abusing his authority when he ordered an illegal search of his spy chief’s apartments — allegedly to ensure that incriminating videotapes would never see the light of day. Fujimori pleaded guilty to the charge, offering a “sincere confession” in the hope it would earn him a lighter sentence.

Fujimori’s decade-old regime was crumbling under the weight of corruption scandals, spawned by his intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, when Fujimori sent military officers posing as court officials to Montesinos’ apartment building on Nov. 7, 2000. Using a fake search warrant, they seized more than 50 large suitcases and 50 boxes reportedly full of videotapes secretly recorded by Montesinos documenting the payoffs and dirty deals that had reinforced the regime’s hold on power.

But two days later, while Montesinos remained in hiding, Fujimori called a news conference in which only two suitcases, and an impressive array of diamond-encrusted watches and other luxury accessories, were on display.

Once Fujimori’s trial for human rights violations comes to an end, he will face another set of charges for corruption. Chile granted Peru’s request for Fujimori’s extradition in 2007 based on seven accusations, all of which form separate trials.

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