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Japan to Reject Request for Fujimori Extradition - 2003-07-31

Japan has confirmed that Peru has formally requested the extradition of former Peruvian president, Alberto Fujimori, to face charges of murder and corruption. Japan has strongly indicated it will reject the request. Peru's ambassador to Japan lodged a formal extradition request Thursday in Tokyo. The 700-page document - translated into Japanese - alleges that Peru's former president, Alberto Fujimori - is to face trial in Lima for the massacre and kidnapping of civilians and official corruption during his 10 years in power.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yasuo Fukuda, indicated his government will reject the request on legal grounds. Mr. Fukuda says Japan will respond in accordance with Japanese law. But he says as a general rule, a criminal on the run who has Japanese citizenship cannot be extradited by Japan.

Mr. Fujimori, whose parents were born in Japan, was granted citizenship in 2000, when he fled to Tokyo during the collapse of his scandal-ridden government. He resigned his presidency by fax from his Japanese hotel.

Peru's Foreign Minister Alan Wagner says the extradition request is reasonable and that "nationality cannot be an obstacle to justice." In addition, Japan has not acted on an Interpol request for the former Peruvian leader to be arrested.

Mr. Fujimori has denied all of the charges against him. He is working as a part-time university lecturer.

Diplomats say that Tokyo's refusal to honor the extradition request is likely to strain relations between Japan and Peru. Those relations were at their peak during Mr. Fujimori's presidency when Japan showered Peru with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of loans, technical assistance and private investment -- making it one of Japan's biggest recipients of foreign aid.

But political observers here warn if Peru pushes Japan too hard on the extradition issue, it risks losing the badly-needed assistance.