Fujimori Corruption trial opens

LIMA:Peru's ex-president Alberto Fujimori, sentenced in April to 25 years prison for authorizing a secret army hit squad, was in court Monday facing fresh corruption charges.

Fujimori, president from 1990 to 2000, is charged with illegally paying his former top aide and intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos a 15 million dollar bonus.

The payment was made two months before Fujimori's government collapsed in a whirlwind of scandal and the president resigned via fax from a Tokyo hotel room in November 2000.

Prosecutor Avelino Guillen is asking the special court for an eight year prison term for the 70 year-old ex-president, as well as 661,000 dollars in damages.

Montesinos, who fled Peru on a private yacht just before Fujimori's downfall, is now in prison and faces charges of corruption, drug trafficking, and selling weapons to leftist Colombian guerrillas.

Many Peruvians credit Fujimori with crushing two leftist insurgencies that plagued the country -- the Tupac Amaru guerrillas and the Maoist Shining Path rebels -- during his iron-fisted presidency.

But Fujimori's authoritarian government began to unravel when secretly recorded videotapes of Montesinos bribing politicians and businessmen with piles of cash began to air on television.

The ex-president's defense attorney, Cesar Nakazaki, said Fujimori would plead not guilty.

"We are going to fight for Fujimori's innocence," Nakazaki said.

Nakazaki, who also defended Fujimori in the rights abuse case, rejected press reports that the ex-president would admit guilt in order to prevent details of corruption during his presidency from being known.

"Fujimori is innocent," said Nakazaki. "We are going to fight for his acquittal," he said.

Fujimori has been held at a police base in Lima since he was extradited from Chile in September 2007.

A three-judge court in Lima sentenced Fujimori to 25 years prison in April after he was found guilty of authorizing the operations of an army death squad that killed 25 civilians in two bloodbaths in 1991 and 1992, and of ordering the kidnapping of a businessman and a journalist in 1992.

Fujimori was already serving a six-year sentence for a separate case in which he was found guilty of abusing power.

A June poll showed that one of the ex-president's 34 year-old daughter Keiko Fujimori, was the early frontrunner for the 2011 presidential elections.

The popular congresswoman and the political heir to her disgraced father would get 22 percent of the vote, seven points ahead of her nearest rivals, said survey group Ipsos Apoyo.

Keiko Fujimori has said she would pardon her father if elected, though it is unclear if she has the constitutional authority to do so.

In 2006, at the age of 30, Keiko Fujimori was elected to Congress in a landslide. She earlier served as Peru's first lady at age 19 after the ex-president divorced her mother.

rm-bur/ksh/arb Peru-trial-Fujimori AFP 131543 GMT JUL 09.