Peru Requests Extradition of Former President Alberto Fujimori

Peru asked Japan on Thursday to extradite former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori (search), who fled to the Asian nation more than two years ago amid the collapse of his scandal-ridden government.

Peruvian Ambassador Luis J. Macchiavello submitted the extradition request (search) to Japan's Foreign Ministry, said Peruvian Embassy press councilor Cesar Jordan, declining further comment.

An official at the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Peru division said the government received the documents, but said it was too early to comment on how the Japanese government would respond.

"We will only follow our domestic laws in deciding how to respond," Yasushi Sato said.

Peruvian Foreign Minister Alan Wagner said in Lima (search) that the request was reasonable. "Nationality cannot be an obstacle to justice."

The Lima government wants Fujimori returned to Peru to face numerous charges, including murder, embezzlement and treason.

But the extradition request applies only to the murder charge. It seeks to link Fujimori to killings committed by a paramilitary death squad known as the "Colina Group."

The group has been tied to the massacre of 15 people in 1991 and the kidnapping and murder of nine students and a professor from La Cantuta University the following year.

In Lima, about 30 relatives of the La Colina death squad's alleged victims held a vigil coordinated by Peru's National Coordinator of Human Rights outside of the Japanese Embassy.

"The victims of Barrios Altos and La Cantuta were Peruvian. The crimes were committed in Peruvian territory. The Peruvian justice system has jurisdiction," said Francisco Soberon, the head of the human rights group.

Fujimori, who fled to Japan in November 2000 amid a corruption scandal that toppled his decade-long government, denies all charges against him.

The Peruvian government hopes the formal extradition request will persuade Tokyo to turn over Fujimori, the son of Japanese immigrants to Peru who was granted Japanese citizenship soon after he arrived.

But so far, Tokyo has rejected such requests, saying the government cannot turn over nationals because Japan has no extradition treaty with Peru. Legal experts say Japan has no obligation to reply to Peru's extradition request.

Among other allegations outlined in the extradition request is that Fujimori authorized a death squad as part of his efforts to crack down on a guerrilla insurgency in Peru during the 1980s and early 1990s, according to Peruvian officials who have prepared it.

In March, Interpol placed the former president on its most-wanted list.

Earlier that month, Amnesty International launched a Web-based signature campaign supporting Fujimori's extradition.

In May, Tokyo prosecutors questioned Fujimori, acting upon a request from Peru, about a 1997 rescue operation that ended a four-month hostage standoff at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima.

Peruvian prosecutors believe that the rebels staging the standoff were executed by commandos after they surrendered.

In recent interviews with the media, Fujimori has dismissed accusations against him as politically motivated, while vowing to return to political life in Peru and possibly the presidency.

Earlier this week, he launched a new political party, "Si Cumple" meaning "Yes, he fulfills promises," to work for his comeback.