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Peru court approves release of ex-President Alberto Fujimori

March 18, 2022

The former Peruvian leader has been serving a jail sentence since 2007 for human rights violations. The court reinstated a "humanitarian pardon" on health grounds first announced in 2017 but revoked within a year.

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori attends a hearing at a police base. File photo from 2013.
Fujimori served as Peru's president from 1990 to 2000Image: Martin Mejia/AP/picture alliance

Peru's constitutional court on Thursday ordered the release of former President Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year sentence for crimes against humanity. 

The court reinstated a humanitarian pardon granted on health grounds in December 2017, but revoked again in October 2018

Tied vote, and a controversial ruling

The vote split the six-judge panel down the middle, with three in favor and three opposed. But in the event of a tie, the court's president's vote is decisive.

"It was a very open, very intense decision with two radically different positions" on whether to release Fujimori, Eloy Espinosa, one of the six supreme court judges, told the RPP radio station. Espinosa said he had voted against the former president's release. 

The ruling cannot be appealed in Peru.

Current leftist President Pedro Castillo, who defeated Fujimori's daughter Keiko in 2021 elections, said the ruling reflected Peru's "institutional crisis" and called on international courts to intervene.

A lawmaker representing the victims' families, Carlos Rivera, said that he would appeal to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, because "Alberto Fujimori cannot benefit from a pardon." 

Who is Alberto Fujimori? 

Fujimori, president from 1990 to 2000, is serving a 25-year sentence for two massacres committed by army death squads in 1991 and 1992. In the supposed anti-terrorist operations 25 people were killed, including a child. 

During his time in office, he oversaw a strict crackdown on presumed leftist forces, also stripping parliament of much of his power. At the time, the state claimed to feel threatened by the Maoist group known as Shining Path. 

Claiming electoral irregularities, presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori speaks from her campaign headquarters in Lima, Peru, Monday, June 7, 2021, the day after the runoff election.
Fujimori's daughter Keiko has run for president three times, she claimed electoral irregularities after her latest defeatImage: Guadalupe Pardo/AP Photo/picture alliance

He fled to Japan, where his parents were from, upon leaving office. But he was convicted in absentia and subsequently extradited back to Peru in 2007.

Fujimori, 83, has long suffered from ill health and returned to prison on Monday following 11 days in a clinic being treated for an irregular heartbeat. He is the only inmate at a small jail at the barracks of special operations police in eastern Lima. 

Fujimori's initial pardon had been issued by former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, just days before he was expected to be impeached. Kuczynski has been held in pre-trial house arrest since April 2019, accused of corruption and money-laundering. 

Keiko Fujimori has sought the presidency three times since 2011, losing in a second-round runoff each time. She too had pledged to pardon her father if elected during last year's campaign. She faces potential prosecution herself, over allegations of illegal campaign funding in her failed 2011 and 2016 presidential bids. 

msh/aw (AFP, AP, dpa)