March 9, 2001

Peru state attorney seeks Fujimori murder charges

                  LIMA, Peru (Reuters) -- Peru's disgraced ex-President Alberto Fujimori should
                  face murder charges over the alleged execution by commandos of 14 Marxist
                  rebels after a 1997 hostage siege, a state attorney said on Friday.

                  "(We have) information regarding how post-mortems were conducted on the
                  dead MRTA (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement) rebels, which in our
                  opinion could corroborate accusations of extrajudicial killings," assistant state
                  attorney Ronald Gamarra told CPN radio.

                  He was referring to the deaths of 14 MRTA rebels during a military assault
                  ordered by Fujimori that ended a 126-day siege at the Japanese ambassador's

                  All but one of the 72 VIP hostages were freed alive in what was hailed by many
                  local and international media at the time as a daring raid by a fearless president.

                  Last year, Fujimori was fired after fleeing to Japan last year amid a government
                  corruption scandal. Eventual human rights abuse charges against him would
                  likely crank up diplomatic pressure on Tokyo to extradite the ex-president for

                  Fujimori has dual Japanese and Peruvian citizenship. Tokyo does not extradite its
                  nationals and has so far indicated it would be reluctant to hand him over.

                  Gamarra said unauthorized post-mortems plus reports by the United Nations, the
                  U.S. State Department and rights groups, suggested rebels had been executed
                  with a shot in the head.

                  Peruvian prosecutors have ordered the exhumation of the rebels' bodies,
                  expected to start Monday.

                  Gamarra is one of a team of attorneys led by state attorney Jose Ugaz
                  investigating Fujimori's fugitive ex-spy chief and chief aide, Vladimiro
                  Montesinos, on charges ranging from corruption to ordering death squads and

                  He was speaking after Ugaz's office called for Fujimori, Montesinos, the
                  then-head of the armed forces, Nicolas de Bari Hermoza, and the then-head of
                  the intelligence services, Julio Salazar to face charges of murder and abuse of

                  Triumph at the time

                  The commandos' raid -- after which a beaming Fujimori sped through Lima in a
                  bus packed with freed hostages -- was seen in 1997 as a triumph, bolstering his
                  hard-line stance against unpopular leftist groups.

                  Fujimori won popularity for crackdowns on rebels whose campaigns brought
                  Peru to its knees in the 1980s and early 1990s, but Peru gained one of Latin
                  America's worst human rights records under his 1990-2000 rule.

                  He has denied the rebels were executed, saying they died in an initial blast set off
                  by the commandos or were killed later fighting troops, many of whom swarmed
                  into the residence from tunnels dug under the mansion during the siege.

                  "The exhumation of the bodies next week will shed new light on how these
                  MRTA rebels died," Gamarra said.

                  "What the state attorney's office has done is make available to the judicial
                  authorities a series of matters which have the likely appearance of a crime. On
                  this basis, it will be up to the prosecutor to conduct preliminary investigations to
                  confirm or rule out extrajudicial executions," he added.

                  MRTA family members decided to bring a case alleging extrajudicial killings after
                  Hidetaka Ogura, a Japanese embassy employee who was held hostage, told
                  media he had seen three rebels alive and tied up in the garden after the raid.

                  Ogura's allegations echoed others made within days of the assault that two rebels
                  were executed with "coup de grace" shots and at least one begged to surrender
                  before being shot.

                  The execution reports suggested a possible breach of international practices on
                  taking of prisoners, committed on what was seen as Japanese sovereign soil.
                  Media have speculated that if charged, Fujimori could face prosecution in Japan.

                     Copyright 2001 Reuters.