Peru’s president has granted a medical pardon to jailed former authoritarian leader Alberto Fujimori, who was serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses and corruption.
A statement from President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s office Sunday evening said the pardon was for “humanitarian reasons.” Fujimori had been seeking a pardon for more than a year because of his illness, according to the Associated Press.
Kuczynski’s decision triggered a Christmas Eve protest in downtown Lima, where police fired teargas at scores of Fujimori opponents as they waved pictures of the victims of a counterinsurgency campaign during his 1990-2000 right-wing government.
At least two ministers in Kuczynski’s Cabinet told him they wanted to resign, and Kuczynski might reshuffle the Cabinet as early as this week, a government source said.
Fujimori’s critics denounced the pardon as the result of a crude political deal Kuczynski brokered with Fujimori’s supporters in Congress, but his family and supporters cheered it as a long-overdue vindication for a misunderstood hero.
Kuczynski, a 79-year-old former Wall Street banker who vowed as a candidate not to pardon Fujimori, based his decision on a medical review that found Fujimori suffered from “a progressive, degenerative and incurable disease,” according to a statement from the president’s office.
Fujimori served as president of Peru from 1990 to 2000. He remains a divisive figure in Peru.
He is admired by some Peruvians for combating Maoist rebels, whereas his critics consider him a corrupt dictator.
In 2007, Fujimori was sentenced to six years in jail for bribery and abuse of power.
In 2009, he was sentenced to another 25 years in prison for human rights abuses committed during his time in office, including authorizing killings carried out by death squads.
His daughter Keiko Fujimori is a prominent politician who ran a credible but unsuccessful race for president. On Twitter she called this “A great day for my family. Finally my father is free. This will be a Christmas of hope and joy.”
Fujimori was taken to a hospital late Saturday after suffering a severe drop in blood pressure and abnormal blood pressure that put his life at risk, according to his doctor, Alejandro Aguinaga, who denied allegations it was a ruse to legitimize a pending pardon.
Kenji said Sunday that Fujimori was recovering in intensive care and would not likely go home for a few days.
Reuters contributed to this report.