Peru's ex-president Fujimori released after controversial pardon

Lima (AFP) –


Peru's ex-president Alberto Fujimori was wheeled out of a Lima hospital late Thursday a free man following a controversial pardon by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

A frail-looking Fujimori, 79, held up a hand to wave to supporters as aides rolled him out the main entrance of Lima's Centenario Clinic in a wheelchair, before he was whisked away in a convoy of vehicles accompanied by his lawmaker son Kenji.

A woman repeatedly shouted "We love you, we love you!" as she tried to reach Fujimori's vehicle through a line of security officials.

"With my dad," wrote Kenji Fujimori on Twitter, publishing a selfie taken with his father in the back of their SUV.

Fujimori, who wore a dark coat over a blue shirt, looked tired in the photo, while the son who orchestrated his release seemed euphoric. Later, he published a video in which both wave to the camera.

"They are the first minutes of Alberto Fujimori in freedom," the family's doctor Alejandro Aguinaga told AFP.

He said Fujimori would meet later with his four children in what would be "an emotional family reunion."

Analysts said the ailing ex-leader's first task would be to reconcile his rival children, Kenji and his sister Keiko, amid fears of a lasting split in the opposition Fuerza Popular party whose leadership Keiko inherited from her father. The Fujimori party is the main political group in the country and controls Congress.

"What will happen now is a sort of attempt by the father to soothe the family trouble," political analyst Fernando Tuesta told AFP.

Kuczynski, a 79-year-old businessman turned center-right politician who beat Keiko to the presidency in 2016 by capitalizing on the anti-Fujimorist vote, said he had pardoned the ex-president for humanitarian reasons - reneging on an election pledge never to do so.

Fujimori was pardoned days after Kenji and a raft of Fujimorist lawmakers abstained from voting on Kuczynski's impeachment in what was seen by many as a backroom deal to save the president from corruption charges.

The December 24 announcement prompted a wave of protest in Peru. Fujimori was released after serving less than half of a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses.

UN human rights experts condemned the pardon as politically motivated and said it was a slap in the face to victims of his brutal rule from 1990-2000.

A court held him responsible for the killings of 25 supposed guerrillas and sympathizers in 1991 and 1992. It sentenced him in 2009 to 25 years in jail.

Relatives of victims have condemned the pardon, but many Peruvians admire him for his ruthless campaign to put down uprisings by leftist guerrillas, and supporters have hailed the decision to free him.

Victims' relatives said they would appeal the pardon to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in Costa Rica.

Fujimori, who has been in the clinic since December 23 -- the day before the pardon was announced -- was transferred from prison after suffering low blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat.

Peru's defense and culture ministers, as well as a string of leading officials, have resigned from the government in protest.

Peruvian analysts now expect Kuczynski to announce a reshuffled "reconciliation" cabinet, to include figures close to Kenji and Alberto Fujimori.

More than 230 Peruvian writers, including Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, have denounced the pardon, insisting Fujimori "does not suffer from any degenerative or terminal illness" and deserved to remain in prison as a "criminal against humanity."

Lawmakers wanted to impeach Kuczynski for allegedly lying to cover up his ties to Odebrecht, a giant Brazilian construction company that has admitted to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to officials across Latin America to secure public works contracts.

After initial denials, Kuczynski in December admitted he had taken money from Odebrecht for what he and the Brazilian company insisted were legitimate consulting fees. He denies any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile Aguinaga, the Fujimori family doctor, said the ex-president "is going to be in a house in Lima" for the foreseeable future.

"He is calm. He is not a person who exaggerates his emotions. He knows he has to take care of himself. He knows there is a severe heart problem."