SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori lost his fight on Friday to avoid extradition from Chile and was to be taken to Lima to face charges of human rights abuse and corruption dating from his 1990-2000 rule.
In a surprise decision that contradicted an earlier ruling by one of its own judges, and which cannot be appealed, Chile’s Supreme Court said it accepted most of the arguments made by Peruvian prosecutors who want to put Fujimori on trial.
The court was unanimous in accepting evidence from two notorious massacres -- known as Barrios Altos and La Cantuta -- in the early 1990s, when Peru was at war with the feared Maoist rebel group the Shining Path.
Students, a professor and a child were among the two dozen killed in the massacres, which Peruvian state prosecutors blame on death squads run by Fujimori’s government.
“(The vote) was much easier than we thought and the important thing above all was Barrios Altos and La Cantuta,” said Alberto Chaigneau, one of five judges who heard the case.
“The voting was unanimous,” he told Chilean, Peruvian and Japanese reporters outside the court.
Fujimori, 69, remained under arrest in a rented house just outside Santiago. There was a heavy police presence in the area and a police helicopter hovered overhead,
A police spokesman said he would be flown from Santiago to Arica, near the Peruvian border, and taken across the frontier overland. Peruvian authorities would then fly him to Lima.
“I imagine that all this will be sorted out within the next few hours,” police spokesman Jaime Mendez told Reuters.
In his first interview since the court decision, Fujimori acknowledged to Peru’s RPP radio that he had made “huge” mistakes while in government but that if he were put on trial he would prove that he acted properly.
Fujimori has been in Chile since November 2005, when he was arrested on an international warrant after flying into the country from Japan, the country of his parents’ birth.
He was planning to launch a political comeback in Peru, where he served two terms as president.
In Lima, the government urged the Peruvian people not to make the ruling “an issue of division.”
“Now we proceed to the next step, which is to bring former president Fujimori to Lima and guarantee due process,” Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo told local radio.
Fujimori spokesman Carlos Raffo asked the government to take measures to ensure the former president’s safety once he arrives in Lima, suggesting how divisive Fujimori remains even seven years after his fall from power.
For some Peruvians, he is the man who had the guts to stand up to the Shining Path and to send troops into the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima in 1997 to end a four-month hostage crisis.
Others view him as a corrupt despot who milked state funds for himself and cronies.
Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, hailed Friday’s verdict.
“After years of evading justice, Fujimori will finally have to respond to the charges and evidence against him in the country he used to run like a mafia boss,” he said.
Fujimori left office months into his third term when his government collapsed under a huge corruption scandal. He faxed his resignation from Japan.
Additional reporting by Pav Jordan and Antonio de la Jara in Santiago and Maria Luisa Palomino and Terry Wade in Lima