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Fujimori cleared in Peru sterilization case

LIMA — Peruvian prosecutors say they have dropped a criminal investigation against Alberto Fujimori, former president, and health ministers who served under him over a 1990s mass sterilization program under which thousands of women say they were forcibly sterilized.

The probe had been reopened in 2011 under pressure from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

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In a statement Friday, prosecutor Marco Guzman said the inquiry against Fujimori and 26 former high-ranking officials had been shelved after deciding that no crime against humanity had been committed.

Sigfredo Florian, a lawyer representing the victims, said they would appeal.

“Only four low-ranking provincial doctors have been accused in the 1998 death of the peasant [Mamerita] Mestanza and not taken into account were the 140 volumes of evidence from the complaints of the other 2,074 peasant women’’ who say their tubal ligations were coerced, Florian said.

Mestanza, a 33-year-old mother of seven, died in 1996 after being pressured into the surgery. Peru had agreed to pay more than $100,000 to Mestanza’s survivors and guarantee her children free education through high school and free medical care. But the Inter-American commission, dissatisfied that the settlement was not honored, pressed for a criminal investigation.

Fujimori, now imprisoned for corruption and authorizing death squads, said the sterilizations of more than 300,000 women, mostly poor, illiterate Indians, from 1995-2000 were voluntary.

But the women say they were deceived, browbeaten, threatened with jail, bribed with food parcels, and otherwise pressured into the operations to meet program quotas.

Activists say that besides being forced, the sterilizations were often carried out in unsanitary conditions.

They documented 18 cases of women who, like Mestanza, died of infections shortly after surgery.

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