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Fujimori Lectures in Japan - 2002-01-10

Peru's former president, Alberto Fujimori, in self-imposed exile in Japan, broke months of isolation Thursday with a speech at a Tokyo university that has hired him as a part-time lecturer. Mr. Fujimori made scant reference to his legacy back in Lima, where he faces murder, extortion and other charges.

Peru's ex-president, speaking in Spanish before a crowd of 2,000 students, reporters and members of the public, portrays himself as a leader who destroyed terrorism in his country. During his lecture at Takushoku University, a video played on a huge screen showing graphic images atrocities allegedly committed by the Maoist Shining Path rebel movement, which Mr. Fujimori says he destroyed.

Mr. Fujimori is on an international wanted list, charged with corruption and sponsoring death squads. The only reference he made to the problems he left in Peru involved money donated by Japanese charities to build several thousand schools in Peru.

He says that he was criticized for how the money was used, but that he never kept any of it for himself.

Before his speech, a few dozen protesters, some of them Peruvian immigrants, waved banners outside the university gates, accusing him of being a criminal. But inside, Mr. Fujimori, the son of Japanese immigrants to Peru, received a warm reception. He was addressed as "sensei", an honorific meaning "teacher".

A 22-year-old law student, Taichi Hirakwa, says he was swayed by what the former Peruvian leader said. Mr. Hirakawa says that although there has been criticism of Mr. Fujimori's administration, terrorism needs to be abolished. He thinks the former president is not a bad person.

At a news conference following the speech, the university, which has a long-standing interest in South America, defends the position it gave Mr. Fujimori. Professor Kazuo Ijiri, director of the school's Japan Cultural Research Department tells reporters that they are not in a position to judge Mr. Fujimori.

We have no intention to get involved in Peruvian politics, he said. We invited him here on the basis that he is now a Japanese citizen.

And that citizenship, granted to Mr. Fujimori after he resigned the presidency while in Japan, protects him from being extradited for crimes committed overseas.

Since arriving in Japan 14 months ago, Mr. Fujimori has been secluded in an upscale Tokyo residence.