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Fujimori candidacy won’t affect legal process: Chile, Peru

Chile and Peru said Thursday that Peruvian former president Alberto Fujimori's decision to run for the Japanese Senate will not effect on the decision to extradite him to face rights abuse charges.
Fujimori, who holds both Japanese and Peruvian citizenship, is under house arrest in Santiago waiting for Chile's Supreme Court to rule on a Peruvian extradition request. He announced Wednesday he will run for Japan's upper house next month.
The announcement sparked speculation that Fujimori was hoping to win immunity as an elected official to avoid facing criminal charges in Peru.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said her country's Supreme Court would not be swayed by the move, and will soon rule on the extradition request. "I'm convinced that despite the developments of the last few hours, Chilean justice will fulfill its role," Bachelet said from her presidential palace.
The court "will do what it has to do, probably very soon," she said.
Chile's top prosecutor Monica Maldonado recommended on June 7 that Fujimori be extradited. The Supreme Court, however, does not have to follow her advice, although it usually does.
The Chilean judge in charge of the Fujimori case, Orlando Alvarez, told the daily La Tercera Thursday that "the most likely outcome" was that he would rule on the case "before the Japanese election," scheduled for July 29.
Should the judge rule for extradition, however, Fujimori could appeal the ruling.
In Lima, Peruvian President Alan Garcia said the legal process would not stop because of Fujimori's candidacy. The former president faces charges of corruption and human rights abuses committed during his 1990-2000 presidency.
"Surely he has his reasons or wants it to be a distraction," Garcia said.
Peruvian Foreign Minister Jose Garcia Belaunde told a newspaper that even if Fujimori were elected it would not change the extradition process.
"There is no such diplomatic immunity if he is elected as a Japanese lawmaker," Garcia Belaunde told Lima's Correo daily.
Fujimori's spokesman denied that the ex-president wanted to elude justice by accepting to be Japan's People's New Party foremost candidate in the elections.
"Those who know Alberto Fujimori know that he is not a short-term thinker," Carlos Raffo told Chile's Television Nacional.
"They know he is a person who has much greater and important objectives than fleeing a situation of this nature," he said in a telephone interview.
Raffo, who is also a lawmaker, said Fujimori would be able to run in Japan's elections while being under house arrest in Santiago because "they are two processes running in parallel."
Fujimori was granted Japanese citizenship after he fled to Tokyo in 2000 amid a corruption scandal and resigned the presidency via fax from his hotel room.
He was detained November 2005, on a surprise visit to Chile, where he wanted to plan a political comeback in Peru's presidential election the following year.
In Lima, the local media vented anger over Fujimori's decision to run for office in Japan.
The country's leading newspaper, El Comercio, said Fujimori's candidacy "erodes his legitimacy even more," adding that he was clearly seeking a way out of an increasingly difficult situation in Peru.
"Fujimori panics and betrays Peru again," the daily La Republica opined.
Peru 21 ran a large photograph of Fujimori on their cover with a phrase in Japanese characters that translated read: "Fujimori coward." The publication's director called Fujimori a "transvestite of nationalities."
The pro-Fujimori La Razon ran "Sayonara" as its banner headline along with a picture of the ex-president, but the paper's main editorial asked if the his political group would now vanish like other movements that formed around charismatic politicians.
"In any case," the editorial concluded, "this episodes confirms that our politics are, by far, the most entertaining and outlandish of the planet."

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