Supreme Court finds in favour of Fujimori

20 August 2016

Lawyers for former president Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a lengthy sentence for corruption and human rights violation, are jubilant at the verdict of the Supreme Court which, on 16 August, found Fujimori not guilty of using public money to fund the gutter press in the build-up to the 2000 elections. The public prosecutor’s office (fiscalía) had demanded an eight-year sentence.

William Paco Castillo, Fujimori’s lawyer, called the decision “a triumph” and an important precedent that would undermine the other charges for which Fujimori was found guilty in 2009.

The court was presided over by Javier Villa Stein, who found that there was no direct proof linking the channelling of large sums (122 million soles, or around US$35 million) from the military budget to funding a range of scurrilous titles (which came into being during the Fujimori years) to campaign for the president’s unconstitutional re-re-election.

Villa Stein, who became president of the Supreme Court in 2008 during the government of Alan García, has long distinguished himself for verdicts that have supported the most conservative positions. In 2012, he presided over a controversial decision that reduced the sentences of those involved in the Grupo Colina, the paramilitary organisation responsible for the murder of 15 people in the Barrios Altos killings of 1992. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights questioned this decision, and the Supreme Court (in Villa Stein’s absence) subsequently revised its stance.

The new verdict has been bitterly criticised by Fujimori opponents as opening the doors to impunity. It also raises important questions about the ability of state functionaries to indulge in the corrupt use of public funds when the money itself did not pass physically through their own hands. The verdict of Villa Stein and his fellow judges based itself on the fact that it was the National Intelligence Service (SIN) which actually handled the money given to the tabloids concerned.

For José Ugaz, the jurist who led the case against Fujimori in 2009 and now chairs the board at Transparency International, the outcome of this case will have no bearing on the other charges for which Fujimori has been found guilty. However, it will have a “negative and pernicious symbolic impact” because “what the verdict says is that what happened in fact was not true even though it has historically been shown to be the case”.

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