Tuesday, January 15, 2008

PERU: Fujimori Apologizes for Death Squads

Also see: "PERU: US Govt. Document Links President García to 1980s Death Squads"

December 21, 2007

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Former president Alberto Fujimori, on trial for murder and kidnapping, apologized Friday for two death squad massacres that could land him in prison for 30 years.

Fujimori, 69, is accused of authorizing the 1991 military death-squad killings of 15 people, including an eight-year-old boy, in a tenement in Lima's Barrios Altos neighborhood as well as the 1992 slayings of nine students and a professor at La Cantuta University.

"I ask for forgiveness from all the victims," Fujimori said in court, responding to questioning from a lawyer representing victims' families. "It hurt my soul."

Fujimori has denied having any knowledge of the squad's activities, and has said he never authorized Vladimiro Montesinos, his now-jailed intelligence chief and a powerbroker in his autocratic regime, to lead a dirty war against the Shining Path rebels.

Fujimori's congresswoman daughter, Keiko, said that her father lamented the killings although he did not accept responsibility for them.

"On several occasions, he has said that he is sorry for the events that took place in Barrios Altos and La Cantuta, the same way he regrets the deaths caused by the terrorists," she told reporters outside the police base where Fujimori and the trial is being held.

"This does not mean that my father assumes responsibility for it. That would be ridiculous. But as president of the republic, he regrets all these events that took place during his government," she added.

Victims' relatives said Fujimori's the apology came too late. Francisco Soberon, director of Peru's human rights group Aprodeh, called it "opportunistic."

Fujimori "had more than 15 years to ask the relatives' forgiveness ... but he didn't do it," said Gisela Ortiz, whose brother was one of the students killed at Lima's La Cantuta University.

Fujimori denied that he authorized human rights violations during his decade-long government.

"There was no policy of human rights violations, but rather, one of pacification," he said.

Earlier this week, Fujimori defended his decision in 1995 to grant amnesty to human rights violators during his war against the Shining Path.

"There was a climate in which people were beginning to feel peace, and I felt it was necessary to seek a political solution after 14 or 15 years of internal war," he said Wednesday.

In 2000, Fujimori fled to Japan, where his parents were born, as his government collapsed amid a corruption scandal involving Montesinos. He flew to Chile in 2005 in an apparent attempt to stage a return to Peruvian politics.

Chile instead extradited him to Peru in September to stand trial on corruption and human rights abuse charges.


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