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Fujimori outburst sets tone for Peru human rights trials

Peru's former leader let loose a tirade as his human rights and corruption trials began Monday.

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The multiple human rights and corruption trials of Peru's Alberto Fujimori got off to a colorful start this week when the former president launched into a tirade denying the charges against him and taking credit for the country's current economic boom.

Mr. Fujimori, who ruled Peru from 1990-2000, began facing a three-judge panel Monday on charges that he approved the death-squad murders of 15 people in 1991 and nine students and a professor the following year. The trial also includes the charge of authorizing the kidnapping and torture of a journalist and a businessman, also in 1992.

He also may face a seven-year sentence in a separate trial on abuse of authority charges.

Fujimori disrupted the mundane administrative chores of the initial hearings Monday when he asked permission to briefly address the court before entering a plea.

The former president immediately threw up his arms, contorted his face, and started screaming that he had saved Peru from imminent collapse when he first took office in July 1990.

"I received Peru in 1990 in a state of collapse, with hyperinflation, international isolation, and widespread terrorism... Peru is progressing today because there were reforms in the context of respect for human rights," he yelled. "I totally reject the charges. I am innocent."

After shouting down the chief judge for a few moments, Fujimori stopped, politely thanked the court for the chance to speak and, smoothing his dark gray, pinstripe suit, calmly returned to his seat in the center of the small courtroom built for the trial on a police base where he has been incarcerated since September.

The outburst fits the image that both Fujimori's supporters and detractors hold of him, and it is likely to set the tone for the trials, which are expected to last at least six months.

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