May 18, 2006

Chile Supreme Court grants bail to Peru’s Fujimori

By Antonio de la Jara

SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - A beaming Alberto Fujimori,
Peru's ex-president, was granted bail on Thursday and left a
Chilean jail where he was held for six months, angering
Peruvian officials seeking his extradition.

Chile's Supreme Court set $3,000 bail for Fujimori, 67,
detained while Peru tries to extradite him to face human rights
abuse and corruption charges. Under conditions of the bail, he
cannot leave Chile.

Fujimori, who is both revered and reviled in Peru, came to
Chile by surprise in November from Japan, where he lived for
five years to avoid prosecution in Peru after his 1990-2000
government collapsed following a huge corruption scandal.

"Obviously I'm happy, satisfied with the decision of the
superior court. ... I'm confident and I'll have patience," a
smiling Fujimori, dressed in a dark suit, told dozens of
reporters outside the Prison Guard Academy in Santiago.

He was whisked away to a house rented for him in the
upscale Las Condes neighborhood of the Chilean capital.

A small group of protesters, accusing the former leader of
authorizing death squads to defeat Shining Path rebels, held a
banner that read "Fujimori genocide."

In Lima, hundreds of people protested against the court's
decision outside the Chilean embassy, shouting "murderer."

Fujimori, of Japanese descent, is accused of stealing $15
million in state cash and using excessive anti-terrorism
measures to crush Shining Path. He denies any wrongdoing and
says he is the victim of political persecution.

Credited with defeating Shining Path and controlling the
hyperinflation that ruined Peru's economy in the 1980s,
Fujimori is a hero to poor Peruvians who say he brought
electricity, roads and schools to remote Andean towns.

But lawyers for the Peruvian state say granting him bail
was a mistake and Peru's Justice Minister Alejandro Tudela he
did not agree with the Chilean decision.

"This ruling raises the possibility for Fujimori to
escape," said Alfredo Etchberry, a lawyer for the Peruvian

Media in Lima reported there were also fears Fujimori could
try to take refuge in the Japanese Embassy in Santiago.

"We don't want to even think about that possibility,"
Tudela told a news conference.


Fujimori's lawyer Cesar Nakazaki said Peru's government was
overreacting. "Let's not exaggerate. We're talking about a
conditional release so that Alberto Fujimori can face the
extradition proceedings in better conditions," Nakazaki said.

When he arrived in Santiago last year, Fujimori said he had
chosen Chile because its courts are seen as the most impartial
in the region. He said he wanted to use Chile as a base to run
for president in Peru, even though he is banned from holding
public office there until 2011.

"I think that this (bail) is obviously of concern because
of ... the resources he has at his disposal and there is
clearly a risk that he could jump bail here," said Sebastian
Brett, a researcher with the group Human Rights Watch.

In April, while being held in Chile, Fujimori married his
wealthy girlfriend, Japanese businesswoman Satomi Kataoka.

"This is one of the happiest days in a long time for me,"
Fujimori's daughter Keiko, elected to Peru's next Congress,
told a news conference. "The superior court's decision
reaffirms that my father is not a danger to anyone," she said.

(Additional reporting by Erik Lopez; Monica Vargas in
Santiago and Robin Emmott in Lima)