Fujimori: “I accept”

I’m innocent! These were the arrogant and carefree words used by Alberto Fujimori in December of 2007 when the trial against him began for grave human rights violations – including murders, kidnappings and torture – committed during the years in which Peru was under the control of the criminal organisation which he lead as President of the country, and which had captured the Peruvian state.

A few months after being sentenced to 25 years in prison for these grave crimes, at the beginning of the fourth and last trial against him, he was asked by the Tribunal if he accepted the charges of bribing congressmen, using stolen State funds to pay off jounalists and media owners so that they would follow a pro-government editorial line, and tapping the phones of members of the opposition. “I accept” was the answer this time.

According to his accusers, faced with an overwhelming amount of evidence (the prosecutor had more than 90 witnesses), the former president had no choice but to admit committing the crimes. On the other hand, his spokespersons have tried to explain his reaction saying that it was in order to avoid a media show because the Tribunal is not impartial. The truth, as usual, seems to be a bit more complex. In fact there is a great deal of evidence – including firsthand witnesses who are ready to point their fingers at Fujimori – which did not give him much room to defend himself. It is also true that as he has already been sentenced to the longest possible sentence, and given the fact that in Peru sentences are not consecutive but rather the shorter sentences become part of the longer one, admitting crimes which involve 8 years of prison would not have increased the number of years he had to serve. Additionally, by accepting the charges Fujimori avoided a long trial on live television and with extensive press coverage, which would undoubtedly have affected his daughter’s election campaign, who has shamelessly stated that she wants to be president in 2011 to give an amnesty to her father.

Finally, in this case Fujimori was sentenced to 6 years. With this sentence, which comes after the previous sentences to 6, 7.5 and 25 years, an important chapter in Peru’s history comes to a close, becoming a worldwide milestone in the complex fight against corruption and impunity. The investigation, capture, extradition, trial and sentencing of Fujimori is an unprecedented fact which we hope will make those planning to come to power to establish cruel and corrupt regimes think again in future.

Jose Ugaz is a Senior Advisor to Transparency International, and has represented the Peruvian state several times as Special State Attorney during the investigations into the Fujimori regime.

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