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Peru court orders opposition leader Keiko Fujimori to return to prison

Keiko Fujimori leaves her home in Lima on January 28th after a judge ordered her return to prison.
Keiko Fujimori leaves her home in Lima on January 28th after a judge ordered her return to prison. © Juan Ponce Valenzuela / EFE

As Peruvian authorities detained opposition leader Keiko Fujimori on Tuesday night for a new 15-month jail term, the politician published a pre-recorded video alleging "persecution" and vowing to "end her silence" on the case.

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A judge on Tuesday afternoon ordered her detention as prosecutors continue an investigation for alleged money laundering.

She had already spent 13 months in jail, but Peru's top constitutional court ordered her release in November. Prosecutors appealed that decision.

In the video, which was published on Facebook and appeared to have been recorded earlier on Tuesday, Fujimori said she would "give a political response to this political persecution."

Her message is a significant shift in strategy. In November, Fujimori said she would lie low and dedicate herself to her family, but is now vowing to aggressively defend herself politically and publicly.

"This isn't justice," Fujimori said, before describing a forceful defence. "As woman, as wife, as mother, I am going to bring out all the strength that I have."

She said her husband would seek support from foreign governments and organisations to support her release.

Fujimori, the daughter of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori, has not been officially charged.

Prosecutors allege she took money from embattled Brazilian firm Odebrecht to finance a presidential campaign while pretending it came from other sources.

Odebrecht has admitted to bribing scores of politicians throughout Latin America, and three of Peru's former presidents have received jail orders for their ties to the company. 

Fujimori and her allies allege this crackdown amounts to a criminalisation of politics, while others say Peru is finally cleaning up its act on combating systemic corruption.

Either way, prosecutors have aggressively gone after top politicians but in most cases have not filed formal charges.

Judge Victor Zuñiga said in his decision that allowing Fujimori to remain free or to hold her on house arrest, two options that were on the table, "would not guarantee ... that the defendant will not interrupt the evolution of the investigations."

Prosecutors had asked for a slightly longer 18-month term. Fujimori's defense said they would appeal.

Fujimori arrived at Zuñiga's courtroom in Lima's downtown shortly before the judge finished reading his decision, which took over eight hours. A few dozen supporters were outside chanting in support.

Key evidence against Fujimori includes the testimony of an Odebrecht executive who told prosecutors that the company helped finance her presidential campaign in 2011, when she was the runner-up.

(REUTERS)

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