Former President Alberto Fujimori released from Peru prison after 16 years

Divisive former president who ruled from 1990-2000 and is now 85, freed from jail on humanitarian grounds.

Alberto Fujimori waves from the car as he leaves prison. He is sitting between his son and daughter. His hair is white and his face looks gaunt.
Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori waves as he leaves prison with his son and daughter [Renato Pajuelo/AFP]

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, who was serving a 25-year prison term for human rights abuses during his decade-long rule in the 1990s, has been freed after the country’s highest court restored a contentious 2017 pardon.

Fujimori, 85, was released from Lima’s Barbadillo prison on Wednesday, a day after the court ruled to restore the pardon on humanitarian grounds, despite criticisms from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Inter-American Court) and victims’ families.

Fujimori had been in prison for 16 years after being extradited from Chile in 2007.

Crowds of supporters gathered outside the jail, as Fujimori was greeted by his two children – Keiko, a three-time failed presidential hopeful, and Kenji, a businessman – before being driven away in a grey truck.

“It was time for this injustice against Fujimori to end, thanks to him, our country is on its feet,” said Catalina Ponce, a Fujimori supporter waiting outside the prison, earlier in the day.

Fujimori, who is of Japanese heritage and led the country from 1990 to 2000, has divided Peruvians like few other former leaders.

Supporters believe he saved Peru from the Shining Path armed group and economic collapse.

Critics, however, say he abused democracy and committed atrocities during his government’s battle against the Shining Path.

The former president was convicted in 2009 of ordering the killing of 25 people in 1991 and 1992, but was given a pardon in December 2017 by former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

The pardon had been repeatedly annulled or suspended by lower courts after pressure from the Inter-American Court and victims’ families, until this week’s constitutional court ruling.

Shortly after the order, the president of the Inter-American Court asked Peru to stop the pardon until it had “all the necessary elements” to analyse whether conditions were met.

Fujimori was impeached in November 2000 on grounds of “moral incapacity” and also accused of corruption, a day after he had fled to Japan, where his parents were from, and resigned by fax. He later went to Chile, from where he was eventually extradited.

These days, he suffers recurrent respiratory, neurological and hypertension problems and has had tongue cancer.

Tuesday’s ruling to reinstate the pardon cannot be appealed, but Fujimori also faces other legal woes.

He has pleaded guilty to bribing lawmakers and spying on rivals while in power, and was also investigated over the forced sterilisation of hundreds of thousands of poor, mostly Indigenous women during his final four years in power.

An estimated 270,000 Peruvians, many of them Indigenous people who did not speak Spanish, underwent surgery to have their fallopian tubes tied as part of a family planning programme implemented under Fujimori.

In 2021, a judge ruled that Fujimori could not, at the time, be prosecuted in the case for technical legal reasons.

Source: News Agencies