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Interpol puts Fujimori on its most-wanted list

The move is intended to put more pressure on Japan, where Peru's former president is shielded from charges.

©Associated Press

March 27, 2003

PARIS -- Interpol put Peru's disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori on its most-wanted list Wednesday, issuing a "red notice" calling for the exiled leader's arrest and extradition on murder and kidnapping charges in Peru.

The move by the international police agency does not carry the force of an arrest warrant. But it could put further pressure on Japan, where Fujimori fled to escape a corruption scandal in 2000 and is protected from extradition by his Japanese citizenship.

Fujimori, who as president closed down Congress and gave the army sweeping powers in a successful campaign against Maoist guerrillas, faces murder charges for allegedly authorizing death squads who massacred suspected rebel sympathizers in the 1990s.

"Because Interpol was familiar with the underlying charges brought against Mr. Fujimori, the organization was able to satisfy itself quickly that all the relevant legal requirements for a 'red notice' request had been satisfied by Peru," said a statement from the Lyon-based police agency.

The notice, which was requested by Peru, means Fujimori's appearance, identity and details of the charges against him will be posted on Interpol's Web site. The "red notice" status puts Fujimori on Interpol's equivalent of a most-wanted list.

Fujimori took office in 1990 and launched a harsh but victorious military crackdown against the leftist Shining Path guerrilla group. But he was criticized for antidemocratic moves, alleged human rights abuses and rampant corruption.

Fujimori, who was born in Peru to Japanese immigrants, fled to Japan in November 2000 as scandal toppled his decadelong regime. Peru has pushed for Fujimori's extradition, but Japanese officials originally argued his Japanese citizenship, established after his arrival, protected him.

Since then, however, Tokyo has requested a Japanese translation of the Peruvian criminal charges and other documents from Lima as a condition for considering the request. Peru has not provided the paperwork.

The Japanese government had no official reaction to the Interpol notice late Wednesday, but a Foreign Ministry official said the measure was not legally binding.

Since arriving in Tokyo, Fujimori has become something of a celebrity, with his love life detailed in the tabloids. The local media have speculated Fujimori, who formed close ties with Tokyo during his 1990-2000 presidency, could seek political office in Japan.

In the meantime, his legal troubles continue mounting in Peru. Last week, Peruvian lawmakers unanimously approved new corruption charges against Fujimori, accusing him of illegally authorizing millions of dollars in government purchases.

The week before, the Peruvian Congress approved embezzlement and illegal enrichment charges accusing Fujimori of secretly shifting state money to pay for intelligence activities.

In addition, the former president faces charges that he made an illegal $15-million severance payment to his former spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, and that he bribed opposition congressmen to join his party.

Montesinos, who is imprisoned and faces some 60 trials on charges ranging from corruption to murder, has said he used his secret budget to make frequent cash payments to Fujimori at the former president's request.

Fujimori has used his "From Tokyo" Web site to claim he is the target of political persecution and to argue the accusations lack proof and credible witnesses.

Interpol was set up in 1923 to facilitate cross-border police cooperation. It is the largest international police organization in the world.

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