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Peru's former leader guilty of murder, kidnapping

A SPECIAL tribunal convicted former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori of murder and kidnapping yesterday for death squad activities during his 10-year rule.

The 70-year-old former strongman, who is often credited for rescuing Peru from the brink of economic and political collapse in the early 1990s, is the first democratically elected former president to be tried for rights violations in his own country.

Presiding judge Cesar San Martin told a hushed courtroom that there was no question the 70-year-old Fujimori authorized the creation of the Colina military death squad that killed some 50 people amid a lengthy struggle to crush a "Maoist" insurgency.

Fujimori apparently anticipated a guilty verdict. He sat alone taking notes as the verdict was read, at the end of a 15-month televised trial that produced a sentence that ran to 711 pages in length.

The son of Japanese immigrants, Fujimori faces a maximum of 30 years in prison. The court was expected to issue a sentence late last night after a full reading of the verdict summary.

His lawyers have said he would appeal.

Outside the Lima police base where the trial was being held, pro- and anti-Fujimori activists fought each other with sticks, fists and rocks after the verdict was announced, with chants of "Fujimori innocent!" and "Fujimori killer!" shouted by rival bands.

Fujimori remains remarkably popular and his successors have maintained his market-friendly policies.

In its first bloody raid, the military death squad Fujimori was convicted of authorizing killed 15 people - including an 8-year-old - during a raid on a barbecue in July 1991. The following year, the Colina group "disappeared" nine students and a leftist professor at La Cantuta university.

Fujimori's 33-year-old daughter, Keiko, is a congresswoman and leading candidate for president in 2011 elections. She has said she would pardon her father if elected.


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