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Peru's opposition leader Keiko Fujimori leaves prison after court ruling

Peru's opposition leader Keiko Fujimori waves after being released from the Santa Monica prison, in Lima, Peru November 29, 2019.
Peru's opposition leader Keiko Fujimori waves after being released from the Santa Monica prison, in Lima, Peru November 29, 2019. Guadalupe Pardo, REUTERS.

Peru's opposition leader Keiko Fujimori was released from prison on Friday after spending 13 months in pre-trial detention in a corruption case linked to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

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Her release comes days after the country’s Constitutional Court ordered her freed in a ruling related only to her detention and which otherwise has no bearing on the corruption case against her.

“For me, it was the most painful event of my life,” Fujimori said as she left prison and hugged her husband in front of a large group of supporters and journalists.

She said the court “has corrected damage that has been inflicted on us. I will continue to face the investigation, as I have always done.”

Supporters welcomed her release with applause and shouts of “Keiko liberty!” and “Keiko president!”

The 44-year-old eldest daughter of disgraced former president Alberto Fujimori had been held since October 31, 2018.

Her American husband, Mark Villanella, had been on hunger strike outside his wife’s prison on the outskirts of Lima to press for her release.

“I’m going to take some time to reunite with my family,” she told journalists, when asked about her immediate political future.

Illicit party funding

Once Peru’s most popular politician, Fujimori theoretically now has time to campaign for presidential elections set for July 2021.

Fujimori is accused of accepting $1.2 million in illicit party funding for her 2011 election campaign as leader of the right-wing Popular Force party.

Odebrecht has admitted to paying at least $29 million to Peruvian officials since 2004, and bribing four former Peruvian presidents.

Three of the presidents are being investigated over Odebrecht while a fourth, Alan Garcia, committed suicide in April after police arrived at his house to arrest him for money laundering.

Known simply as Keiko by followers and political rivals alike, Fujimori emerges from prison to a very different political landscape than the one she left just over a year ago.

Once a major player in the country’s politics, Popular Force has lost ground in recent years, in part due to Fujimori’s two successive defeats in the second round of presidential elections in 2011 and 2016.

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra has called for new legislative elections for January 26 after dissolving the country’s single-chamber congress in September as part of an anti-corruption campaign.

Fujimori’s party risks losing its congressional majority following repeated clashes with Vizcarra, whose anti-graft drive has proven popular with the public.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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