March 14, 2011 / 7:53 PM / 8 years ago

Peru election leads Fujimori to father's nemesis

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori said on Tuesday if elected she would set aside a personal grudge and work to strengthen the judicial system with the judge who jailed her father.

Fujimori is in second place in Peru’s presidential race, running in part to defend the legacy of her father, former President Alberto Fujimori.

When he was sentenced in 2009 to 25 years in prison for ordering two death squads to annihilate presumed leftists rebels, she criticized the conviction as a tragic miscarriage of justice.

Since then, she has voiced support for an appeal making its way through domestic courts. But she has stopped short of saying she would pardon her father if she were elected and the appeal rejected.

The Supreme Court judge who presided over the trial, Cesar San Martin, is now the head of Peru’s judiciary and is holding meetings with each of the 11 candidates in the April 10 election.

“I aspire to be president and if I get there I must act like a head of state, which means cooperating with all institutions, above and beyond personal differences,” Fujimori said.

“At no time did we talk about the issue of my father,” the visibly tense and curt candidate told reporters. She said they had a “respectful and cordial meeting” that dealt with the need to give the judiciary a bigger budget and make it more efficient.

Polls show the younger Fujimori, 35, has a chance of making it to a runoff election June 5 against frontrunner and former President Alejandro Toledo, who governed from 2001 to 2006 and is strongly-backed by Peru’s human rights community.

Supporters of the elder Fujimori, 72, say he rescued Peru, now one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, from chaos by stopping hyper-inflation and beating back the Maoist Shining Path guerrillas.

They also say he deserves some leniency as he is now suffering from mouth cancer.

But critics say his authoritarian rule from 1990 to 2000 led to widespread corruption, domestic spying, and human rights abuses. His trial was a rare instance of a former head of state being tried in his own country for rights crimes.

Editing by Terry Wade and Vicki Allen

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