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Fujimori Returns to Peru to Face Trial

  International  -   POSTED: 2007/09/22 16:36

Former President Alberto Fujimori returned to Peru on Saturday to face charges of corruption and sanctioning death-squad killings, a grim homecoming for the strongman who fled the country seven years ago as his government collapsed in scandal.

The plane carrying the 69-year-old former ruler landed in a heavy mist at Lima's Las Palmas air force base, a day after Chile's Supreme Court authorized his extradition. He was then flown by helicopter to a police base, where he is to be held until a permanent facility is prepared for his detention.

Some 700 supporters who gathered outside the police air terminal across town to greet him were frustated when his plane was diverted to the air base.

"We have come to welcome Fujimori, to tell him that we are with him and will accompany him wherever he goes so that he feels he has the support of his people," his daughter Keiko Fujimori, who was elected to Congress in 2006, told The Associated Press.

Fujimori's extradition from Chile has provoked reactions ranging from elation to indignation.

Some Peruvians believe he should be tried for his controversial crackdown on the bloody Shining Path insurgency and alleged corruption during his 1990-2000 presidency.

But Fujimori maintains a following in Peru. A recent poll showed that 23 percent of Peruvians want to see him back in politics and some worry his return could provoke turmoil in a country emerging from decades of political and economic chaos.

"There will be a sector of the country that will identify with him, and he will play a destabilizing opposition role," said congressman Javier Valle Riestra, a leader of President Alan Garcia's Aprista party.

Fujimori was widely admired for ushering in economic stability and defeating the Shining Path rebel movement during his 1990-2000 government, but his presidency increasingly came under fire as it drifted toward authoritarianism and evidence surfaced of corruption.

He was flying to Peru under police custody Saturday, a day after the Chilean Supreme Court ordered his extradition on human rights and corruption charges.

Fujimori's followers and foes alike were stunned in November 2005, when he landed in a small plane in Chile and revealed his ambition to run for president in the 2006 elections, even though Peru's Congress had banned him from seeking public office until 2011. He was promptly arrested.

Fujimori had earned a reputation as a cool-headed strategist in handling multiple crises as president. But he may have miscalculated when he decided to leave his safe refuge in Japan, where he enjoyed immunity from extradition because of his Japanese nationality, inherited from his migrant parents.


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