LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru’s Constitutional Court on Thursday approved the release from prison of former President Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year sentence for murder and corruption.
The ruling reinstated a humanitarian pardon granted to Fujimori on Christmas Eve in 2017 by then-president Pablo Kuczynski, a court official told The Associated Press. The official could not be named because the person was not authorized to speak on the matter.
The country’s Supreme Court overturned the medical pardon in 2018 and ordered the former strongman to return to prison to serve his sentence for human rights violations, which was set to last until February 10, 2032.
Kuczynski had said he pardoned Fujimori because he suffered from a heart condition aggravated by the prison conditions, although the move was widely seen as an attempt to avoid impeachment by currying favor with Fujimori’s allies. in Congress. Kuczynski resigned three months after the pardon.
People gathered outside the prison in hopes of seeing 83-year-old Fujimori released, although authorities gave no indication that his release was imminent. Fujimori’s lawyer, Cesar Nakazaki, said the former leader is not expected to be released from jail until Monday or Tuesday after certain legal proceedings are completed.
Elsewhere in the capital, people gathered to protest against the court’s decision.
President Pedro Castillo tweeted on Thursday that “the bodies of international justice to which Peru is attached must guarantee the effective exercise of justice for the people”.
Prime Minister Aníbal Torres said the decision was “harming” the country but would be followed. Torres told a local radio station that the court was “a champion of impunity for serious criminals”.
The Constitutional Court usually broadcasts its decisions live, but did not do so in this case. He also gave no explanation for his decision.
Fujimori, who ruled from 1990 to 2000, remains a polarizing figure in the Andean country. Some Peruvians praise him for defeating the Maoist Shining Path guerrilla movement, while others hate him for the human rights abuses committed under his government.
A former math professor, Fujimori was a political underdog when he emerged from obscurity to win the 1990 Peruvian presidential election over writer Mario Vargas Llosa.
Peru was ravaged by runaway inflation and guerrilla violence when he took office. He quickly rebuilt the economy with massive privatizations of state industries. Defeating the fanatical Shining Path rebels took longer, but his fight won him widespread support.
But his presidency crumbled just as dramatically as his rise to power.
After briefly shutting down Congress and embarking on a third term, Fujimori fled the country in disgrace in 2000 after leaked videos showed his spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, bribing lawmakers. Fujimori traveled to Japan, his parents’ homeland, and faxed in his resignation.
Five years later, he stunned supporters and enemies alike when he flew to neighboring Chile, where he was arrested and extradited to Peru. Fujimori’s goal was to run for president of Peru again in 2006, but instead he was put on trial.
His daughter, Keiko Fujimori, was a presidential candidate last year and has vowed to release him if elected. But Castillo beat her in a second round.
All of Peru’s former presidents who have ruled since 1985 have been ensnared by corruption allegations, some imprisoned or arrested in their homes. One of them committed suicide before the police could arrest him. The South American country has gone through three presidents in November 2020.
Fujimori also faced charges stemming from her role in a 1990s government program in which many indigenous women from poor communities said they were forcibly sterilized and for the murder of six farmers by a military death squad under its administration.