But under Peruvian law, any punishment could be reduced and served under house detention if the defendant is 70 or older.

Fujimori turns 70 on July 28, 2008. and prosecutors are racing for a conviction before his 70th birthday.

Proceedings could go on for two years before a verdict is reached. The sessions will take place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

'Dirty war'

Before and during Fujimori's rule, the Peruvian government waged a "dirty war" against left-wing fighters belonging to the 'Shining Path' movement.

The suspected crimes to go to trial in Lima, the capital, are isolated examples of more widespread atrocities that occurred during the 20-year conflict.

On November 3, 1991, a group of armed and masked soldiers burst into a party in the suburb of Barrios Altos. Fifteen people were shot to death, including an eight-year-old boy.

Several months later, on July 18, 1992, nine university students and their professor were rounded up by the same "La Colina" squad, taken to a deserted area of the city and executed with shots to the back of the head.

A truth and reconciliation commission later determined that contrary to what the Peruvian secret service suspected, none of the victims were connected to the 'Shining Path' movement.

The third alleged rights violation has to do with the kidnapping of a Peruvian journalist working for Spanish El Pais newspaper and a businessman, both critics of Fujimori's government.

They were abducted on April 5, 1992 - the night Fujimori carried out a palace coup, dismissing congress and sacking the supreme court - and held in military intelligence headquarters.

The prosecution is seeking $33 million in damages for the murders and $100,000 for the detentions.

It is also looking for convictions on five charges of corruption, in which it is alleged Fujimori bought off opposition politicians.