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Former Peruvian President Fujimori's conviction a milestone

He's the first democratically elected Latin American leader found guilty in his own country of human rights abuses. But supporters are expected to protest.

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The conviction Tuesday of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori on human rights charges – including authorizing murder and kidnapping – has been hailed by some as a milestone for justice in Latin America.

Mr. Fujimori, who ruled Peru throughout the 1990s, is the first democratically elected leader in the region found guilty, in his own country, of human rights abuses.

But the conviction is also an important moment for national healing in Peru, says Efrain Gonzales, the vice rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru in Lima.

While about one third of the country still supports the former leader, he says Peru can move forward from old tensions that surfaced during the 15-month trial. "It is an acceptance that we had a problem. He is guilty. There is a lot of evidence against him," says Mr. Gonzales. "The nation can move forward from here."

Some 70,000 people were killed during a 20-year conflict between the military and Maoist guerrillas in Peru. Fujimori, who was elected in 1990, was widely popular for free-market economic policies that saved Peru from near collapse and for defeating the Shining Path guerrilla fighters.

But amid corruption charges, his administration faltered and he fled to Japan, where his parents were born, in 2000. Five years later he attempted a return to Chile, apparently to begin a political comeback, but was extradited to Peru in 2007 to face human rights and corruption charges.

Crimes against humanity

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