Peru's president grants medical pardon to jailed ex-leader Alberto Fujimori

Peru's president has granted a medical pardon to jailed former strongman Alberto Fujimori, who was serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses, corruption and the sanctioning of death squads.

Country's ex-president was serving 25 years for human rights abuses, corruption, sanctioning of death squads

Peru's former president, Alberto Fujimori, shown inside a courtroom on the outskirts of Lima on July 8, 2015, has been serving a 25-year sentence for overseeing death squad murders and corruption during his 1990-2000 government. On Sunday, current President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said he was granting Fujimori a medical pardon. (The Associated Press)

Peru's president has granted a medical pardon to jailed former strongman Alberto Fujimori, who was serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses, corruption and the sanctioning of death squads. 

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski released a statement Sunday night, saying he decided to free Fujimori for "humanitarian reasons."

Now 79, Fujimori filed a request for a pardon more than a year ago, citing deteriorating health. He has said on his Twitter account that he suffers from arrhythmia, a heart condition for which he has been hospitalized several times this year.

He was taken from prison to a clinic on Saturday after suffering a drop in blood pressure, and supporters gathered outside the clinic to celebrate his pardon Sunday night.

Kuczynski's statement said a medical board had evaluated Fujimori and determined "he suffers from a progressive, degenerative and incurable disease, and that prison conditions mean a serious risk to his life, health and well-being."

Fujimori would have been in prison until age 93 if he had served his full sentence.

He was first convicted in 2009 and sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in the killings of 25 people, including an eight-year-old boy, during his administration. He later drew four more convictions, the most serious one charging him with knowledge of the existence of death squads financed with public money that killed civilians accused of being Shining Path members.

Peruvian law provides that no person convicted of murder or kidnapping can receive a presidential pardon except in the case of a terminal illness. Three previous requests from Fujimori for pardons since 2013 were rejected after doctors said he did not suffer from incurable illness or severe mental disorder.

Fujimori, who governed from 1990 to 2000, is a polarizing figure in Peru. Some Peruvians laud him for defeating the Maoist Shining Path guerrilla movement, while others loathe him for human rights violations carried out under his government.

His daughter, Keiko Fujimori, narrowly lost Peru's last presidential election to Kuczynski, and her party dominates congress.

Her party mounted an attempt to oust Kuczynski over business ties to the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which is at the centre of a huge Latin American corruption scandal, but the president survived the impeachment vote late Thursday.

Fujimori's presidency collapsed

A former university president and mathematics professor, Alberto Fujimori was a political outsider when he emerged from obscurity to win Peru's 1990 presidential election over writer Mario Vargas Llosa.

Peru was being ravaged by runaway inflation and guerrilla violence when he took office. He quickly rebuilt the economy with mass privatizations of state industries. Defeating the fanatical Shining Path rebels took longer, but his fight won him broad-based support.

His presidency collapsed just as dramatically as his rise to power.

After briefly shutting down Congress and putting himself into a third term, Fujimori fled the country in disgrace in 2000 after leaked videotapes showed his spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, bribing lawmakers. Fujimori went to Japan, his parents' homeland, and famously sent in his resignation by fax.

Five years later, he stunned supporters and enemies alike when he flew to neighbouring Chile, where he was arrested and extradited to Peru. Fujimori's goal was to run for Peru's presidency again in 2006, but instead he went to trial and was convicted of abuse of power.