Fujimori Pleads Guilty in Peru Corruption Trial

By: Andrew Whalen - AP Writer
By: Andrew Whalen - AP Writer

Former President Alberto Fujimori, who already faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison, pleaded guilty on Monday to authorizing illegal wiretaps and bribes of politicians, journalists and businessmen.

Fujimori, 71 and ailing, appeared to sleep during chief prosecutor Jose Pelaez's accusation, but stirred at the close of the session to say three words to the presiding judge: "Sir, I agree."

Pelaez requested an eight-year sentence for the illegal wiretaps, bribes and embezzlement, which would be served concurrently with a 25-year sentence imposed in Fujimori's previous murder and kidnapping trial.

He could be freed far earlier, however, if his daughter Keiko is elected president in 2011. She has vowed to pardon her father and she leads some recent campaign polls, largely because Fujimori remains popular for crushing a leftist rebellion during his decade in power.

By avoiding televised hearings that would reacquaint voters with the darkest days of his government, the guilty plea amounts to damage control for his daughter's candidacy, his best ticket out of jail, political analyst Carlos Basombrio told The Associated Press.

The chief prosecutor indicated he wasn't surprised by Fujimori's guilty plea. "Given the weight of the evidence we'd compiled there was little else he could do," Pelaez said as he left the courthouse.

Pelaez accused Fujimori of ordering his former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos to use state funds to secretly wiretap 28 politicians, journalists and businessmen, bribe 13 congressmen to join Fujimori's party and buy off a TV station and a newspaper editorial board to support his 2000 re-election campaign.

Prosecutors had lined up 155 witnesses to testify against Fujimori, Pelaez said.

Montesinos, who prosecutors planned to call as the principal witness, has testified in his own trials that he made the payoffs on behalf of Fujimori. Fujimori argued in one of his earlier trials that he knew nothing of the money - that Montesinos was using the bribes to win support for a planned coup against him.

Fujimori wore a crisp blue suit and golden tie but slumped in his chair with his eyes closed during a reading of the charges that took nearly three hours.

The three-judge panel will sentence Fujimori on Wednesday. In addition to a prison sentence, prosecutors want him to pay $1.7 million to the state and $1 million to be shared between the 28 people whose phone lines were illegally tapped.

Since Fujimori's 2007 extradition to Peru from Chile, the panel has convicted Fujimori of crimes against humanity for authorizing military death squads, of abuse of power for an illegal search and of embezzlement for paying his spy chief $15 million in state funds.

He is appealing those convictions. In the embezzlement trial he acknowledged making the irregular payoff, but said he should not be held criminally responsible because Montesinos blackmailed him, and he says he later repaid the state with money he found in Montesinos' spy headquarters.

Prosecutors contest the claim and have requested a separate investigation into how Fujimori repaid the funds.

Peruvian prison sentences do not accumulate, so the 25-year murder and kidnapping sentence Fujimori received in the death-squad trial is the maximum he can serve.

Fujimori's lawyer, Cesar Nakazaki, repeated his claim in court on Monday that his client could not receive an impartial hearing from the three-judge Supreme Court panel. Last week, Peru's Supreme Court rejected a suit he filed in attempt to remove the judges, whose rulings he calls politically motivated.

The former president accepted the charges "because they were going to give him the maximum penalty anyway," congressman Carlos Raffo, who is a member of Fujimori's political party, told Lima-based RPP radio.

Raffo said the Peruvian people will be Fujimori's judge. "The only thing the last two trials achieved was to boost support for Keiko" in the polls, he said.

Democratically elected in 1990, Fujimori ruled Peru with an increasingly iron fist until his corruption-riddled government collapsed in 2000, when a videotape surfaced showing Montesinos bribing a congressmen.

Montesinos is serving a 20-year term for bribing lawmakers and businessmen and selling weapons to Colombian rebels.

Fujimori fled to Japan in 2000 as his government collapsed. He attempted to return in 2005 only to be arrested in Chile and extradited to Peru in 2007.


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