Fujimori arrested in Chile as he attempted return to Peru to run for president

Former Peruvian leader has an international arrest warrant and now faces extradition to Peru.

fujimori 88 (photo credit: )
fujimori 88
(photo credit: )
Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was arrested in Chile Monday on charges at home involving corruption and massacres, as he attempted to return to Peru to run for re-election after five years as a protected exile in Japan. The 67-year-old former leader flew here although he was the target of an international arrest warrant and now faces extradition to Peru. His detention leaves people across the world to wonder: What was he thinking? Some believe he simply miscalculated the situation. Others think he was confident Chile's Supreme Court would block his extradition and release him, as it has done for other former leaders who have sought refuge in Chile. Fujimori was arrested at his hotel hours after his surprise arrival in Santiago Sunday and taken to the investigative police academy in a western Santiago suburb. The arrest was ordered by Supreme Court Justice Orlando Alvarez at the request of the Peruvian government, which told Chile it will soon make a formal request for Fujimori's extradition. On Monday, Fujimori requested that he be granted provisional freedom while the extradition proceeding runs its course. A decision is expected Monday. Fujimori fled to Japan in November 2000 as his 10-year authoritarian government crumbled amid corruption scandals. He faces 21 charges ranging from abuse of power and corruption to sanctioning a paramilitary death squad known as Colina, accused of two massacres of suspected rebel collaborators in which 25 people were killed, including an 8-year-old boy. Peruvian prosecutors are seeking a 30-year sentence and a US$28.6 million (€24.2 million) fine for Fujimori's alleged role in the paramilitary death squad massacres in the early 1990s, the most serious charge he faces. Fujimori had long vowed to return to Peru to stand for re-election in next April's elections, despite the charges against him and a standing congressional ruling, upheld by Peru's Constitutional Tribunal, prohibiting him from holding public office until February 2011. Peruvian authorities have 60 days to make the extradition request and they are moving fast. Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo on Monday sent a high-level delegation led by Interior Minister Romulo Pizarro to Chile to try to expedite the procedure. The group includes a top anti-corruption prosecutor. On Monday Fujimori underwent a medical test "that didn't show anything wrong," said police spokesman Jaime Mendez. Fujimori was also allowed to meet with his Chilean lawyer, Juan Carlos Osorio. Speculation Monday also centered on the reasons Fujimori - the son of Japanese immigrants to Peru - left the safety of Japan, where he was granted citizenship after his arrival. Japan has repeatedly said its citizens can't be extradited under Japanese law. Ricardo Israel, a Chilean political scientist, believes Fujimori well knew what he was doing. "He knows Chile's Supreme Court almost certainly wouldn't authorize the extradition of a person with political prominence," Israel said. He noted that the court last year rejected an Argentine request for the extradition of former Argentine President Carlos Memen. He said the court also refused to extradite an Argentine publicist accused of running smear campaigns against Fujimori's opponents and a Peruvian newspaper publisher accused of taking bribes to support him. "Fujimori's bet was to be close to Peru to continue to prepare his return to run for president," Israel told The Associated Press. In Peru, many felt Fujimori made a big mistake. "He miscalculated," said former Peruvian Foreign Minister Diego Garcia. "I don't think he made such a long trip only to be arrested in Chile. I don't think he considered that possibility." Radioprogramas of Peru reported that Fujimori told a Japanese journalist before he left Tokyo that he didn't expect to be arrested because Chile and Peru have tense relations these days due to a dispute over maritime limits. "It was a very imprudent, irresponsible decision to come here at this time," said Chilean Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker. Walker dismissed suggestions that Fujimori be expelled from Chile instead of allowing for his extradition to Peru. "That's impossible now. An administrative decision is out of the question," Walker said. "The situation is in the hands of the courts." In Chile even President Ricardo Lagos' Socialist Party is urging that Fujimori be expelled, though not necessarily to Peru. "He must be expelled. He is a blight on the history of Latin America," said party president Ricardo Nunez. President Ricardo Lagos said he does not expect Fujimori's arrival to "affect the normal process of our relations" with Peru, including the way the two countries resolve their dispute over sea boundaries.