The three public sessions designated for Alberto Fujimori’s appeal of his 25-year sentence for human rights abuses successfully concluded yesterday, Nov. 25, as planned. The defense asked the Supreme Court’s Transitory Criminal Court presiding the appeal to reduce or annul the sentence, while the public prosecutor and lawyers for the victims have asked that the sentence be upheld.
The court, presided by judges Duberlí Rodríguez, Elvia Barrios, Roberto Barandiarán, José Neyra and Julio Biaggi, will now have two main aspects of the sentence to decide on: whether or not to confirm that Fujimori’s crimes rise to the level of crimes against humanity and whether his charge for kidnapping should be considered aggravated (involving cruel treatment) or simple.
Based on its decisions, the court can uphold the sentence as it stands, modify or annul it. At the end of the final hearing session, the court announced that it will not delay more than 30 working days to reach a final decision. This means that the final verdict for the case against Fujimori for rights abuses will come to a close before the end of the year or at the beginning of 2010. However, some sources in the Judicial Power say that the court intends to issue a verdict as soon as possible.
During his final intervention, Fujimori’s defense lawyer, César Nakazaki requested that the judges at least modify the charge of kidnapping and crimes against humanity against his client if they decide to confirm the 25-year sentence. With this, Nakazaki said that the former president may only spend seven years in prison.
However, in declarations to the press, the defense asserted that in reality Fujimori hopes to be absolved for the kidnapping charge and for the murder charge to be annulled, allowing him to face a new trial.
Nakazaki reiterated that the sentence issued by “the court of [César] San Martín” — the Special Criminal Court of the Supreme Court — did not intend to find Fujimori guilty or innocent but rather create a legal formula for the former president to spend as much time in prison as possible.
Meanwhile, Public Prosecutor Pablo Sánchez asserted his opinion that the kidnapping charge should be simple and not aggravated, as it currently stands in the sentence. He said this was a “technical and legal” interpretation in accordance with Peruvian law.
Sánchez reiterated that his opinion was not meant to favor Fujimori, as lawyer Carlos Rivera suggested, but rather an “independent viewpoint.” He added that despite this modification, he still believes that the rest of the 25-year sentence should be upheld.
“The laws have to be read correctly. [Fujimori] does not deserve any kind of benefits, this is why we reject any kind of suggestion or doubt regarding this issue,” he added.
Sánchez also reiterated that as president, Fujimori exercised control as commander in chief of the Armed Forces, allowing him to “materialize” the conduct that is currently being ruled upon.
In turn, Ronald Gamarra, representing the victims and their families, mentioned that the 25-year sentence originally issued is “absolutely clear” and thus required no further discussion.
“The court correctly applied the criminal offenses in force at the time that the crimes occurred, including the qualification of crimes against humanity since international criminal law allows for this,” he assured.
Gamarra said that now the Transitory Criminal Court holds in its hands a historic case. He asked the presiding judges to think of the 25 murdered victims from the extrajudicial executions of Barrios Altos and La Cantuta and to remember that these were unique human beings when it comes time to make a decision.
For his part, lawyer Carlos Rivera, also representing the victims, stressed that Fujimori did have political power to issue military orders during the internal armed conflict against subversive groups. “There was a dirty war and Barrios Altos and La Cantuta were not the only incidents in which people were murdered or disappeared,” he said.