Peru’s president announced Sunday night that he granted a medical pardon to jailed former strongman Alberto Fujimori, who was serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses, corruption and the sanctioning of death squads.
President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski released a statement saying he decided to free Fujimori for “humanitarian reasons.”
Fujimori, 79, who governed from 1990 to 2000, is a polarizing figure in Peru. Some Peruvians laud him for defeating the Maoist Shining Path guerrilla movement, while others loath him for human rights violations carried out under his government.
Keiko Fujimori, his daughter, whose party dominates congress, narrowly lost the last presidential election to Kuczynski. Her party mounted an attempt this month to oust Kuczynski over business ties to the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which is at the center of a huge Latin American corruption scandal, but the president survived the impeachment vote late Thursday.
Fujimori filed a request seeking a medical pardon more than a year ago, citing deteriorating health. He has said on his Twitter account that he suffers from arrhythmia, for which he has been hospitalized several times this year. He was taken from prison to a clinic on Saturday after suffering a drop in blood pressure, and supporters gathered outside the clinic to celebrate his pardon Sunday night.
Peruvian law provides that no person convicted of murder or kidnapping can receive a presidential pardon except in the case of a terminal illness. Three previous requests from Fujimori for pardons since 2013 were rejected after doctors said he didn’t suffer from incurable illness or severe mental disorder.
Kuczynski’s statement said a medical board had evaluated Fujimori and determined that “he suffers from a progressive, degenerative and incurable disease and that prison conditions mean a serious risk to his life, health and well-being.”
Fujimori would have been in prison until age 93 if had he served his full sentence.
He was first convicted in 2009 and sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in the killings of 25 people, including an 8-year-old boy, during his administration. He later drew four more convictions, the most serious one charging him with knowledge of the existence of death squads financed with public money that killed civilians accused of being Shining Path members.
Fujimori, a former university president and mathematics professor, was a political outsider when he emerged from obscurity to win Peru’s 1990 presidential election over the writer Mario Vargas Llosa.
Peru was being ravaged by runaway inflation and guerrilla violence when he took office. He quickly rebuilt the economy with mass privatizations of state industries. Defeating the fanatical Shining Path rebels took longer, but his fight won him broad-based support.