Japan today said that Peru’s disgraced ex-president Alberto Fujimori has Japanese nationality, a status that allows him to stay in the land of his forefathers and probably avoid facing investigators in Peru.
The decision also raises the prospect of a diplomatic row if Lima’s new government asks Tokyo to hand over the former president to face a probe into the scandals that sent him spinning out of office.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda confirmed the decision on Fujimori’s nationality at a regular news conference.
Asked what Japan would do if Peru sought Fujimori’s extradition, Fukuda said: “I believe the government will deal with the issue in accordance with Japan’s domestic law.”
Japan’s law does not allow the extradition of its nationals.
Fukuda added that even if Fujimori had dual nationality, that would not affect his status as a Japanese national.
Fujimori resigned as president and was then sacked by Peru’s Congress days after entering Japan on a diplomatic visa in November.
Forcing Fujimori to Testify
The leader of a congressional investigation in Peru said on Monday that the Congress was prepared to use all the tools of international justice to force Fujimori to testify over his links to his former spy-chief who is wanted on corruption charges.
“We could ask Interpol to arrest him [Fujimori] and bring him over here,” said David Waisman, head of the congressional commission investigating the fugitive ex-spy chief Vladimir Montesinos.
Justice Ministry officials had previously said that if Fujimori could prove that his parents were Japanese and that his name had been registered in the ancestral koseki, or family record, he could stay in Japan as long as he wants.
An official in the small southwestern Japanese town where Fujimori’s parents were born had earlier said his name had been entered in the koseki after his parents emigrated to Peru in the early 1930s.
The difficulty for Japan is compounded not only by Fujimori’s possession of Japanese nationality but by the fact that Tokyo feels beholden to him for rescuing diplomats and other hostages held by leftist guerrillas at the Japanese ambassador’s home in Lima in a 1997 commando raid.
Peru under Fujimori was also one of the biggest recipients of Japanese aid, and one of 14 countries that received loans from Japan on an annual basis.
Fujimori has refused to return to Peru, saying he had no guarantees for his personal safety or that he would receive a fair hearing in a government now led by one of his veteran opponents in Congress — interim President Valentin Paniagua.
Polls show that many Peruvians believe Fujimori is trying to hide his links with Montesinos and opposition lawmakers have accused the ex-president of financially benefiting from the spy-chief’s web of power.