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Friday, 9 March, 2001, 20:40 GMT
Peru to exhume rebels' bodies
Peruvian soldiers putting an end to the siege - April 1997
A Japanese official says he saw some rebels alive after the raid
Peruvian prosecutors say they will exhume the bodies of 14 rebels who died in the 1997 raid to free dozens of hostages at the Japanese ambassador's home in Lima.

Forensic scientists hope to determine whether the members of the left-wing Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) were killed during the assault, as the official version says, or were executed afterwards.

Former President Alberto Fujimori
Fujimori could face charges if the rebels are proved to have been executed
Relatives of the rebels demanded the exhumation after an employee of the Japanese embassy told the media he saw at least three of the rebels alive and tied up in the garden after the raid.

The rebels held 72 people captive for more than 126 days, until then-President Alberto Fujimori ordered a military assault on the building.

All but one of the hostages were freed unharmed - all the rebels died.

Mr Fujimori - who now lives in Japan - has denied the allegations saying all the activists died in an initial blast set off by government commandos.

The Fujimori factor

At the time, the raid on the Japanese ambassador's residence was seen by many as a triumph for Mr Fujimori and his spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, now in hiding.

Mr Fujimori was acclaimed as the president who took a tough stance against left-wing rebels.

Bodies are removed after troops stormed the embassy
The rebels were buried in unmarked graves around Lima
But rumours about a summary execution of the rebels surfaced just days after the raid, in April 1997.

It was then reported that two of the guerrillas were shot in the forehead after being captured, while one rebel had been shot after begging to surrender.

The bodies of the 14 rebels were then buried in unmarked graves around Lima. Many of the relatives say they were not allowed to see the bodies and were only informed of their burial after the event.

If forensic scientists find evidence of executions, charges could be brought against the officials who ordered the execution. And human rights activists believe that could lead to charges against Mr Fujimori himself.

Peru's Justice Minister, Diego Garcia, said that if the charges were proved to be true, they could be an important factor for Mr Fujimori's possible extradition from Japan.

So far Tokyo has rejected calls to return Mr Fujimori - who has Japanese nationality - to Peru.

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02 Mar 01 | Americas
Peru court summons Fujimori
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