LIMA – Peruvians celebrated Christmas on Monday against the backdrop of controversy over the beleaguered president’s decision to pardon disgraced former head of state Alberto Fujimori, serving a 25-year prison sentence for crimes against humanity.
The Christmas Eve pardon for Fujimori, found guilty of massacres carried out by the security forces during his 1990-2000 tenure, has exposed incumbent Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to harsh criticism, including from some who supported him in the past.
Under the terms of the reprieve, the 79-year-old Fujimori is also shielded from prosecution for another multiple murder by security forces.
An attorney representing families of Fujimori’s victims, Carlos Rivera, said Monday that he plans to ask the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to overturn what the Kuczynski administration describes as a “humanitarian” measure.
The pardon was based not on Fujimori’s health, but on an “under-the-table political accord,” the lawyer said.
Kuczynski signed the pardon just three days after he avoided impeachment thanks to the votes of 10 opposition lawmakers led by Kenji Fujimori, Alberto’s son, and just two weeks after recommendation of a medical board that included the inmate’s personal physician.
Kuczynski became president by defeating Keiko Fujimori – Kenji’s older sister – in a 2016 runoff. During the campaign, Kuczynski vowed not to pardon Alberto Fujimori.
Some of the most pointed criticism of the pardon came from Veronika Mendoza, leader of the leftist New Peru coalition, whose endorsement ahead of the second round was crucial to Kuczynski’s victory last year.
Calling the pardon “a vile betrayal of the motherland” and labeling Kuczynski a “sellout,” Mendoza, who finished third in the first round of voting in 2016, said that the president avoided impeachment by letting “a murderer and thief” go free.
Protests against clemency for Fujimori began Christmas Eve and continued into Monday.
Fujimori, meanwhile, remained at the Lima clinic where he was taken last Friday for treatment of high blood pressure.
The report from the medical panel that recommended his release said Fujimori was suffering from a “progressive, degenerative and incurable disease” likely to be aggravated by the conditions in prison.
Alberto Fujimori’s government collapsed in the Fall of 2000 amid a burgeoning corruption scandal involving spy chief and top adviser Vladimiro Montesinos.
When the dismissal of Montesinos failed to appease public outrage, Fujimori fled Peru for Japan, from where he faxed his resignation as president.
Tokyo granted Fujimori asylum by virtue of the Japanese citizenship his emigrant parents obtained for him at the time of his birth in Peru. Had Peruvian authorities known of his dual citizenship, he would never have been allowed to run for president.
Although he was safe from extradition in Japan, the president traveled in Chile unexpectedly on Nov. 6, 2005, apparently with hopes of returning to Peru to compete in the 2006 presidential election.
But Chilean authorities promptly arrested him on an Interpol warrant and he was ultimately turned over to Peru.
Fujimori was convicted in 2009 for 25 killings carried out in the early 1990s by the covert military unit Colina.
The prosecutor who secured that conviction, Avelino Guillen, said Monday that Peru’s Constitutional Court has the authority to revoke the pardon for Fujimori.
Guillen told the news Web site Ojo-Publico (Public Eye) that Kuczynski’s decision to pardon Fujimori made a mockery of the rules of the Commission on Presidential Clemency.