Peru’s former President Alberto Fujimori was released from prison on Wednesday ahead of the completion of his sentence for authorizing the operation of a death squad in his country, according to court documents and images of the ailing ex-leader outside a Lima prison.
The Constitutional Court of Peru on Tuesday had ordered the immediate release of Fujimori, restoring a medical pardon he received in 2017 from then-Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski as a humanitarian gesture. The pardon, however, was annulled a year later by the country’s Supreme Court, after which Fujimori returned to prison.
The son of Japanese immigrants, Fujimori was a deeply divisive figure before and after his hard-line tenure, which ran from 1990 to 2000, when he resigned following a bribery scandal. He is credited with defeating the Shining Path terrorists who destabilized the country, and his austere economic policies reined in hyperinflation.
But the former president had an authoritarian streak and used security forces to crack down on opponents.
In 2009, a special supreme court tribunal sentenced him to 25 years in prison for authorizing the operation of a death squad responsible for killing civilians.
At the time of his pardon, Kuczynski’s office said Fujimori “suffers from a progressive, degenerative and incurable disease.”
Then 79, Fujimori appeared in a hospital bed in a video he released that thanked Kuczynski.
“The news of the humanitarian pardon granted by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski surprised me at this intensive care unit,” Fujimori said. “I am aware that the results during my government on one side were well received, but I recognize that I have also disappointed others, and I ask them to forgive me with all my heart.”
Outrage over Fujimori’s 2017 pardon led to two nights of heated protests in Lima.
The charges related to his authorization of a death squad that was tied to the “extrajudicial execution of 15 people in the Barrios Altos district of Lima, the enforced disappearance and murder of nine students and a teacher from La Cantuta University, and two abductions,” according to Human Rights Watch.
In addition to the death squad charges, Fujimori was found guilty in separate trials of breaking into the home of a former spy chief to steal incriminating videos, taking money from the government treasury to pay the spy chief and authorizing illegal wiretaps and bribing congressmen and journalists.