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Japan Rejects Interpol Request to Arrest Former Peruvian President - 2003-03-28

Japan says it will not comply with a request from Interpol, the international police agency, to arrest former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, who lives in exile in Japan.

Interpol issued a so-called "red notice" for the arrest of former Pervian President Alberto Fujimori. The Peruvian government wants Tokyo to send Mr. Fujimori back to Lima, where he can be tried on charges of murder and kidnapping. The Japanese government has refused.

Japan has been Mr. Fujimori's refuge since, while still in office, he fled here two-and-a-half years ago and then faxed his resignation to Lima. His flight came as a major corruption scandal was enveloping his already controversial administration. A month after his arrival in Japan he was granted citizenship, based on his Japanese heritage.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yasuo Fukuda, told reporters that Japanese domestic laws prevent the government from carrying out the request for Mr. Fujimori's arrest. A spokesman for the National Police Agency says it would need a proper Japanese warrant before taking any action.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima has repeatedly told reporters that Japan cannot extradite the son of Japanese emigrants, because he now holds Japanese citizenship. "The basic position of Japanese government on this case is that Mr. Fujimori is confirmed to be a Japanese citizen by birth," he said. "And, since there is no international agreement or treaty or arrangement between Peru and Japan to hand over any criminal suspects, we have no plan to put him in that situation, I mean hand over or extradite him from Japan, and send him to Peru."

A government prosecutor in Peru has filed homicide and kidnapping charges against Mr. Fujimori in connection with the killing of about two dozen civilians by state-backed death squads.

During his 10 years in office and now in exile in Japan, 64-year-old Mr. Fujimori has consistently portrayed himself as a fighter against terrorism. In a brief letter to foreign correspondents earlier this month, he said the warrant for his arrest was part of a campaign of political persecution by the current Peruvian government.

While the warrant is unlikely to make life difficult for the ex-president in Japan, it could hinder any international travel plans he might have. Some nations have already notified Lima that they would extradite him to Peru, if he were to enter their countries.