LIMA (Reuters) - A Peruvian journalist described on Friday the horror he felt being kidnapped by President Alberto Fujimori’s security squad in 1992, hours after the former leader shut down Congress during a war against leftists.
Gustavo Gorriti, testifying at Fujimori’s trial on human rights crimes, said 10 men with machine guns snatched him from his house in the middle of the night.
He said he became terrified when he realized he had been taken to the offices of the Peruvian army’s intelligence agency for interrogation.
“It was a place where very few people who went in came out alive,” said Gorriti, who had criticized the former president’s government prior to the kidnapping.
“He had all the power of the state concentrated in his hands.” Gorriti said of Fujimori, 69.
He said he was targeted because he had published stories tying Fujimori’s spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, to corruption and drug traffickers.
Montesinos, now in prison, was widely known as Fujimori’s most important aide. Fujimori used the threat of terrorism to consolidate power, closing Congress in April 1992 to pass tough laws targeting armed leftist groups.
Fujimori on Friday denied ordering the kidnapping of Gorriti. He has denied other charges that he violated human rights by instructing a government death squad to kill 25 people in two massacres during the 1990s, when Peru was battling the Maoist guerrilla group known as the Shining Path.
While in power from 1990 to 2000, Fujimori defeated the guerrillas and brought order to a chaotic economy. But critics said he violated human rights to end a 20-year war in which nearly 70,000 people died or disappeared.
In 1992, security forces seized 10 people from La Cantuta University, killed them and dumped their bodies in a shallow grave. In 1991, they gunned down 15 people at a barbecue in the Barrios Altos neighborhood, among them an 8-year-old boy.
Fujimori could get up to 30 years in prison if found guilty of human rights crimes.
Last month, the Supreme Court sentenced him to six years in prison for sending an aide to steal incriminating documents from Montesinos’ house.
Chile extradited Fujimori to Peru in September after seven years in exile, five of them in Japan, the country of his parents’ birth.
Reporting by Jean Luis Arce and Terry Wade; Editing by Xavier Briand