(AA) – Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was convicted Thursday for using state money to fund a dirty media war on opponents in his 2000 re-election bid.
Fujimori who is already eight years into a 25-year sentence for crimes against humanity, was given eight years behind bars and ordered to pay $1 million in reparations for embezzling defense funds to bribe newspapers’ editorial boards.
The ruling is the sixth and final for Fujimori, drawing a line on outstanding cases from his 10-year presidency (1990-2000) that ended when he fled to Japan and resigned by fax.
The 76-year-old Fujimori, who is currently being treated for mouth cancer, can still be freed in 2032 as sentences aren’t cumulative under Peruvian law.
The agronomist outsider-turned-president said he wasn’t responsible for the diversion of $43 million to the intelligence service, but that others acted on his watch. Several others, including spy-chief Vladimir Montesinos, were jailed in 2005 in connection with the case.
Directors of the so-called ‘chicha’ press were paid up to $3,000 per story to give favorable coverage and disparage political opponents seeking to defy Fujimori an unconstitutional third term.
During the hearing he wrote on paper in view of the press corps that the sentence was “unjust.” The verdict was “groundless,” said defense attorney William Castillo, adding that he would appeal the verdict.
“This is just a confirmation of what we always knew and has been proved practically from the beginning,” said Jose Ugaz, president of Transparency International and prosecutor on a previous Fujimori case.
“Montesinos and the criminal network had absolute control of the media here except in some exceptional cases,” Ugaz added.
Fujmori is a divisive figure in Peruvian society, with hardcore supporters who credit him with extinguishing a brutal armed conflict that left 69,000 dead.
His daughter, Keiko Fujimori is leader of the biggest opposition party and has previously said she would pardon her father if she were elected. Current President Ollanta Humala resisted a pardon in 2013, though he cannot re-run in 2016.
Keiko Fujimori acknowledged that her father “bought editorial boards” in comments to reporters, though she said no evidence has shown he was responsible.
Fujimori is the first elected head of state to be extradited back to his home country, put on trial and convicted of human rights violations. After secretly traveling to Chile in 2005, he was handed over to Peruvian authorities to stand trial in 2007.
In November 2014, his appeal to serve out the remainder of his sentence under house arrest in order to better administer treatment for mouth cancer was rejected. Critics say he exaggerates his illness to draw sympathy that may speed up his release.
The disgraced president of Japanese descent was jailed for crimes against humanity relating to two episodes of killings during the government’s fight against leftist rebels in the 1990s.
In 1991, 15 people were killed at a barbeque in Lima known as the Barrios Altos massacre, as security forces looked for members of the Shining Path terrorist insurgency. A year later, nine students and a teacher from La Cantuta University were killed. In both cases none were terrorists.
“In legal terms this should be the end,” Ugaz said after Thursday’s ruling closed a 14-year chapter of cases. “In political terms it shall go on forever,” he added.