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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 11:04 GMT
Pressure on Peru's fugitive ex-president
Demonstrators in Lima
Many Peruvians fiercely opposed Fujimori

The recent capture of the man suspected of leading Peru's death squads in the 1990s could help expedite the extradition of the country's former President, Alberto Fujimori.

Mr Fujimori fled to Japan two years ago following a corruption and bribery scandal.

The arrest of suspected death squad leader Major Martin Rivas could strengthen the case for his extradition.

Former President Alberto Fujimori
Fujimori's "war" against the left was widely criticised

Mr Rivas is accused of leading the death squads know as Grupo Colina established by Mr Fujimori's spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos.

It was the filming of Mr Montesinos buying off opposition politicians that led to the ex-president's flight from Peru in November 2000.

Martin Rivas was one of 10 army officers sentenced to prison terms of up to 20 years for the killing of university students in 1992.

He was released from prison in 1995 when Mr Fujimori declared an amnesty for army officers involved in the fight against left-wing militants.

Mr Rivas is accused of various other crimes, the most notorious being the murder of 15 people in a poor Lima suburb in 1991.

This was during Alberto Fujimori's fight against violent left-wing movements, notably the Maoist Shining Path group and its sympathisers.

The disappeared

Many people were tortured or disappeared as part of the government's "dirty war" against what it called left-wing "terrorism".

The relatives of those who are still missing, like Maribel Barrientes, now hope that justice could finally be at hand.

"My brothers were disappeared.

"My nephews were left traumatised, and they haven't been able to recover. We're using this opportunity to demand from him that he tell us where our brothers are " she told the BBC.

The relatives now want those accused of running the death squads to tell them what happened to their relatives.

They also want ex-President Fujimori, whom they accuse of setting up the death squads, to face trial.

Anti-Montesinos demonstration
Montesinos was a feared and hated figure

While his right-hand man Mr Montesinos languishes in Lima's top-security prison, Mr Fujimori remains in self-imposed exile in Japan.

He has obtained Japanese citizenship because his parents were born there.

But Peru's Interior Minister, Gino Costa, does not believe he will be able to stay there much longer.

"If there's evidence that he [Martin Rivas] was following orders by Fujimori, as we suspect, then Fujimori will be charged with crimes against humanity.

"That will make it easier for the Peruvian authorities to extradite Fujimori.

"So it will depend on how far Martin Rivas is willing to go and to what extent Fujimori was actually involved in ordering the activities of the Grupo Colina," the minister said.

New charges

Peru has been trying to extradite Mr Fujimori for the past two years.

The former president, who denies the charges against him, has been protected because no extradition treaty exists between Japan and Peru.

Vladimiro Montesinos
Vladimiro Montesinos was Fujimori's spy boss

But Ana Townsend, the Peruvian congresswoman who presided over the Fujimori/Montesinos investigations, says this may no longer be a problem if Mr Rivas implicates the former president on torture charges.

"The international convention against torture has an article which is number eight that says if between two states there is no extradition treaty, this convention will be the replacement of the extradition treaty, " she believes.

It's unclear how much Mr Rivas will help the authorities.

He has already said he was acting on orders and that he even received commendations for the killings.

If it is proved that he was involved and extradition goes ahead, Mr Fujimori could face 30 years in prison.

See also:

21 Nov 02 | Americas
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