Wed, Sep 30, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Fujimori pleads guilty to bribery, spying

FAMILY TIES Analysts said the former Peruvian president likely made the plea to avoid damaging testimony that could hurt his daughter’s presidential bid in 2011

AFP , LIMA

In a dramatic turn, former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori pled guilty on Monday to bribing lawmakers and spying on former rivals for the presidency and others during his decade-long presidency.

Fujimori, 71, accepted counts of bribing opposition lawmakers, illegal purchase of a media outlet and wiretapping politicians, journalists and businesspeople through top aide and spymaster Vladimiro Montesinos.

“I do accept them,” Fujimori, in a blue jacket and yellow tie, responded quietly, taking responsibility for the crimes listed at the start of his fourth trial here, after earlier repeated public denials of wrongdoing as president.

Fujimori had pled guilty to charges from his controversial presidency only once before, in July, when he acknowledged illegally paying Montesinos US$15 million. In that case, he received a seven-and-a-half-year prison term now under appeal.

Among the targets of Fujimori’s spying named in this trial was his political enemy Mario Vargas Llosa, in 1990, when the award-winning novelist was a rival for the presidency.

Prosecutor Jose Pelaez sought an eight-and-a-half-year jail sentence for Fujimori on three charges, a fine of US$1.6 million payable to the state, and a total of US$1 million for his victims.

“Wiretapping was constant and systematic for people who made the Fujimori government uncomfortable,” Pelaez told the court.

He said that other Fujimori targets included the former president’s now ex-wife Susana Higuchi, before their divorce was final, and former UN chief Javier Perez de Cuellar, in 1995, when he was a presidential rival.

The judge set the ex-president’s sentencing for today.

The trial was the fourth and likely last for Fujimori, tracing a full fall from grace for the bespectacled agronomist son of Japanese immigrants who was president from 1990 to 2000.

He was sentenced in April to 25 years in prison for authorizing a secret military death squad to kill 25 people and ordering the kidnapping of a businessman and a journalist in the early 1990s.

In a separate trial that ended in July, Fujimori, who has been detained since his extradition from Chile in 2007 after living in exile in Japan for seven years, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for embezzlement.

In a December 2007 trial, Fujimori was found guilty of abuse of power and sentenced to six years in prison.

Assuming he loses an appeal of the death squad conviction, only the 25-year sentence will be applied. Under Peruvian law, sentences in cases of multiple convictions cannot be served consecutively.

Many analysts believe that Fujimori, in admitting corruption, sought to avoid an onslaught of damaging testimony that could hurt his daughter Keiko Fujimori’s chances in the 2011 presidential election.

The former president has argued that the charges against him are politically motivated efforts to sideline his lawmaker daughter and derail her likely presidential candidacy.

Fujimori’s presidency collapsed in a whirlwind of scandal after secretly recorded videotapes of Montesinos bribing politicians and businessmen with piles of cash began to air on television. Fujimori resigned via fax from a Tokyo hotel room in November 2000.

Many Peruvians credit him with crushing two leftist insurgencies that plagued the country — the Tupac Amaru guerrillas and the Maoist Shining Path rebels — during his iron-fisted presidency.

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