Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori has been convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for death squad killings and kidnappings during his 1990s struggle against Shining Path insurgents.
Outside court, pro- and anti-Fujimori activists fought with fists, sticks and rocks.
About 50 people chanted “Fujimori killer!” while several hundred chanted “Fujimori innocent!” before riot police separated them.
The court convicted the 70-year-old former leader, who was widely credited for rescuing Peru from the brink of economic and political collapse, of “crimes against humanity” including two operations by the military hit squad that claimed 25 lives.
None of the victims, the three-judge court found, were connected to any insurgency.
Presiding judge Cesar San Martin said there was no question Mr Fujimori authorised the creation of the Colina unit, which the court said killed at least 50 people as the government battled Shining Path terror with a “parallel terror apparatus” of its own.
He sentenced Mr Fujimori to 25 years in prison, only five fewer than the maximum.
Victims’ family members nodded with satisfaction and shed tears in the courtroom as the verdict was read.
“For the first time, the memory of our relatives is dignified in a ruling that says none of the victims was linked to any terrorist group,” said Gisela Ortiz, whose brother was killed.
Mr Fujimori, who proclaimed his innocence in a roar when the 15-month televised trial began, barely looked up, uttering only four words – “I move to nullify” - before turning, waving to his children, and walking out of the courtroom at the Lima police base where he has been held and tried since his 2007 extradition from Chile.
His supporters in the courtroom shook their heads in disgust and groaned in exasperation.
Mr Fujimori’s congresswoman daughter, Keiko, called the conviction foreordained and “full of hate and vengeance”. She said it would only strengthen her candidacy for the 2011 presidential race.