A court in Peru has convicted former president Alberto Fujimori for rights violations committed by his government's security forces in the 1990s.  He was sentenced to 25 years in prison on charges of murder and kidnapping.

The guilty verdict follows a 15-month trial against Alberto Fujimori, whose government fought a brutal war with Maoist rebels.

The three-judge panel ruled that the 70-year-old was responsible for the deaths of 25 people killed by military forces near the start of his term in office.

Prosecutors said the alleged military death squad mistakenly killed 15 civilians during a botched raid at a neighborhood barbecue in Lima.  They also accuse the group of seizing nine students and a professor who were later found shot.  The university attack was seen as retaliation against Shining Path rebels for a series of bomb attacks.

A court official read from a 700-page verdict that described how Fujimori made the anti-terrorist battle a central focus of his government, and how he reformed the armed forces to battle Shining Path insurgents.

Riot police deployed outside the courtroom to prevent clashes between relatives of the victims and Fujimori.supporters.  Many Peruvians continue to back the former president for his efforts to crush the rebels and reverse an economic crisis.

In closing statements last week, Fujimori rejected the charges against him and said the trial was motivated by politics.

He said he made difficult decisions to help the country, while other politicians would have handed off the problems to future administrations.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch praised the trial as a major advance for accountability and respect for human rights around the world.  It said the trial was crucial for the region because it marked the first time a former elected president was tried for human rights violations.