Fujimori confident courts will lift arrest orders, allowing him to return to Peru

Defense lawyers for fugitive ex-President Alberto Fujimori said Thursday he was confident Peru's courts would drop arrest orders against him, allowing his return to Peru to campaign for the presidency in next April's election. Fujimori faces 22 charges ranging from corruption to sanctioning a paramilitary death squad that killed suspected rebel sympathizers in the early 1990s.

Cesar Nakazaki, Fujimori's lead defense attorney, said his team was making progress on getting the arrest orders against Fujimori changed to court summonses. He said that would also annul Interpol arrest orders and permit Fujimori to travel back to Peru without being detained, the AP reports.

When the arrest orders are changed to court summonses, "that will be the moment in which the legal conditions will exist for Alberto Fujimori to return to Peru," he said. "He knows he has a legal and moral imperative to come before the Peruvian people to demonstrate he is innocent."

In Tokyo, where he lives protected against extradition due to his dual Japanese-Peruvian citizenship, Fujimori reiterated his pledge to return to Peru to participate in next year's election, Kyodo News Agency reported Thursday.

Fujimori obtained a Peruvian passport last month in a move that his supporters saw as the latest sign he was preparing to return to his homeland. Fujimori's passport expired after he fled to Japan in November 2000 as his 10-year government crumbled amid mushrooming corruption scandals. Nakazaki cautioned that Fujimori's strategy "depended on Peru's willingness to respect the law."

Another barrier Fujimori faces is a congressional resolution banning him from holding public office until February 2011. Rolando Sousa, another Fujimori defense lawyer, said the prohibition violates Peru's Constitution and his team was preparing a challenge to the ban. Peruvian prosecutors have petitioned Japan to extradite Fujimori so that he can be put on trial on the criminal charges.

Fujimori, the son of Japanese immigrants, has been shielded from extradition by Japanese citizenship granted after his arrival. Tokyo has repeatedly said Japanese citizens cannot be extradited under Japanese law. Peru's ambassador to Japan, Luis Macchizello, called Fujimori's talk of running for president a "lie" because Peruvian authorities plan to arrest him.

Fujimori seized near dictatorial power in April 1992 by sending tanks to shut down Peru's Congress and judiciary _ a move he argued was necessary to fight leftist rebels and end economic chaos.

Under international pressure he convoked a Constitutional assembly, creating a unicameral Congress, and in November 1992 held new congressional elections. He was re-elected to a second term in a landslide victory three years later.

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