On March 10, 2008, I was at the 34th session of the Fujimori trial. It was the first time I went, and it was a quiet day according to what I was told.
There were two witnesses, one evidently whitewashing everyone he could (above all himself), and the other saying everything he could.
Both are retired military officers, one a friend of Montesinos and head of the Army Intelligence Service (SIE) during 1991 and 1992.
And the other was the person in charge at the Military Base of Civic Action in La Cantuta in July 1992 (when the kidnapping and killing of the 9 students and the professor had just taken place).
The first was boring, the second a big talker but cautious, watching what he said.
Both – in addition to being witnesses – are themselves defendants at the Naval Base trial.
Anyway, in both cases (the one giving data and the other hiding them) the session was really disagreeable, because everything was so uncertain and nebulous. Deliberately blurry, an insult to the truth at every corner. How difficult it is to operate in this field! For me it was like wanting to interrupt and say, “Well, enough! Say what you have to say and stop playing games!” But that option doesn’t exist. And, one must follow the lead of the laws and the lawyers. We are in that court (all ritual) where each person plays a game, a role.
Fujimori played motionless, Nakazaki calm and deliberate, the lawyers for the victims’ families and state prosecutor Guillén tireless (question after question after question).
He who gives orders (the Court President – Supreme Court Judge San Martin) played the wise man and turned out to be one.
And the people at the trial, we were there tolerating the session, the hours went on and on and on.
In the pressroom, everything is like a passage opposite two giant screens (the people sleep, talk, eat…). Happily, it was our turn to be in the courtroom itself with the families, which is more careful (one can see through windows and listen directly to what is happening, although you share the room with Fujimori’s relatives).
The route is long, at every moment I was close to the ladies (they are the ones who are most welcoming, they look at you and greet you), they are very friendly and are super used to the place. They helped to orient me (when to enter, when to leave, when to get in the car, when to get out, when to give my identification, when to eat lunch, etc.). My impression was that they are not saturated nor much less past their limit. In reality I don’t know if, because it was a simple session, everything was well ordered. Also I saw the lawyers in their natural habitat, they laughed, they chatted, and there was a moment during the recess when they even joked with Fujimori’s lawyer, Nakazaki, about the time.
Each one in his place, well knowing the rhythm of that place.
Several people slept, but I think that is natural – many, many hours pass for the relatives (on both sides), the lawyers (on both sides), Fujimori, and everyone. There isn’t the same claim that the defense lawyers sleep, but it happens.
The ladies are on top of everything. Lucid and admirable.
My sensation of being there was only out of respect for them. They have fought so much, have resisted so much, have searched so much, and have protested so much that now they have gotten Fujimori into the dock in front of them. Along with the military men of high rank, who surely in their time were the “braggarts,” to now have them seated there “dripping with fear” is really incredible.
I don’t know if they are my ideas or what, but I felt the chief judge, San Martin, as if he were playing for us. With the two witnesses he made interesting precisions that allowed what Nakazaki had disguised to be clarified. In some cases I have the sensation that the chief judge acts as prosecutor, and Prosecutor Guillén acts as defense lawyer.
One of the ladies said, “What did they think, that they were going to govern for life?” The only thing that got my attention was that while we ate lunch, I said that their fight was admirable and that now they were the powerful ones who had gotten Fujimori accused and seated in the courtroom. It seemed to me that this meant nothing to them; I had the sensation that they avoided the idea. Then on the bus back to the trial, when I repeated it to another lady she said to me, “We are insignificant, they could still do something to us.”
And she told me about the insults and the pushing of the Fujimoristas. “We make as if nothing were going on … we look straight at them and greet them,” but she immediately remembered old telephone threats to her family.
Rather, what the ladies told me is that finally, with each witness, what happened is being revealed. And, the necessity of putting together the pieces of the puzzle that removed their children from them is so great that it doesn’t matter how cruel the testimony can be, they want to know, to listen, and to try to understand the road that their children went down until they died.
So great is the need for the truth that the people tolerate the pain, provided they know. More so since the possibility of justice is now added. Now they even feel at peace because Fujimori has already received a six-year sentence and he might receive another of between 20 and 30 years for this case.
Some of them even recount how they have stopped dreaming about their relatives, others tell about situations in which they almost died (traffic accidents, serious sicknesses, and others) and how they continue living thanks to the fact that their children are taking care of them. They say “sometimes it seems that my child wants me with him/her, but then they say no, better not, and they leave me here to continue living.”
The Fujimoristas are few but they are Fujimoristas. Kenji arrived, Keiko arrived, Raffo arrived, they were there a while during the morning and then they left. Even when they try to project an image of security they don’t have it. They deny or they look out the corner of the eye, they don’t look straight ahead. In the afternoon, Raffo seated the eight improvised Fujimoristas who remained (all together, forward to greet and say goodbye to Fujimori) and then he swiftly leaves. Even Fujimori looks (trying not to be noticed) at the family area. They are afraid of what is happening and what is going to happen. Good, it was time, wasn’t it?
At lunch everyone sits at any table that he or she wants, there are several. Nobody mentions if it is the VIP hall or the “beach.” Each one eats and comments about what he or she can or wants to. Then the lawyers look for a place to rest (they get to do it in a little contiguous room), and the ladies get on the bus to rest. The fact that the family lunch is assured is a great thing, we eat lunch calmly.
Our time is well taken care of and that makes us feel that the situation is under control. The friendliness that CNDDHH shows is important, the people feel themselves welcomed. The subject of the bus helps a lot. One feels good, everyone sits where they want to, everyone speaks with whoever they want.
It seems to me that this place isn’t for asking who is who, nor who was your relative, the ladies are doing things their own way, some hug, others don’t, some bother themselves, some talk in order not to sleep. In reality, they take over the place; they sit in the front, others in the rest of the room. Sure of themselves. I don’t feel that it is a block of relatives, they joke and all but each one is each one. They recognize Señora Raida and Gisella as the best fighters and then also some of their relatives, and then the human rights.
In my case, right after chatting a while, the ladies ask who one is, they don’t do it at first, it gives me the impression that first they want general things before getting to personal subjects. Upon returning to Lima, I finally decided to talk a bit more with one of the ladies and she told me her story, what happened to her daughter, the difficulties with her family, being alone by herself. After she told me about coming to Lima and how difficult it was to raise her daughter, she went to another subject and entertained me talking about how much family she has in Lima, about her 80-year-old mother still living in Ayacucho, and about her 9 sisters, each one living on a distant corner of Lima.
She tells me that she comes to all the sessions, that she also goes to the trial at the Naval Base, also about the backing she has received from APRODEH and from CNDDHH, then she gets excited asking for Ali’s and Sr. Roca’s cell phone numbers. We say goodbye with fondness and with good energy.
The only sensation that I have now is of wanting to return; what the ladies say is true, one learns things from the lawyers, but above all, I also felt that I was finding out about what happened in Peru (however much those witnesses didn’t want to tell). Incredible!
I encourage all of you to share the Trial of Defendant Fujimori about the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta cases.
Miryam Rivera Holguín