Fujimori Is Ordered Back to Prison in Peru, Angering Supporters

October 4, 2018, 5:25 pm

LIMA, Peru — Alberto Fujimori, the former Peruvian dictator imprisoned for human rights abuses but then pardoned last year, was ordered back to prison on Wednesday, reigniting debate over the fate of one of the region’s most contentious figures.

Human rights advocates hailed the ruling, but Mr. Fujimori’s defiant supporters and his politically powerful daughter, Keiko, gathered outside his house on Wednesday to condemn it.

“This is persecution against my family,” Ms. Fujimori said.

It was the latest dramatic turn for Mr. Fujimori, 80, who ruled as a dictator in the 1990s after suspending the Constitution, only to land in a prison cell when he tried to stage a political comeback in the early 2000s.

He was freed last December, but his fate was reversed again on Wednesday, with the Supreme Court issuing orders for his arrest “so he would be returned to penitentiary,” according to a statement released on Twitter.

Miguel Pérez Arroyo, a lawyer for Mr. Fujimori, told Peruvian television that Mr. Fujimori was “dismayed” by the decision but would comply while filing an appeal.

By early evening, Mr. Fujimori had been taken to a hospital in Lima, the capital, where authorities had arrived with orders to arrest him.

The ruling was the latest episode in a drama that has captivated the nation since Mr. Fujimori’s pardon late last year, which brought back memories of his dictatorship and played a part in the toppling of a president this year.

Mr. Fujimori had been sentenced in 2009 to a 25-year term for rights abuses that included the killing of more than two dozen people by a military death squad that prosecutors said Mr. Fujimori had created. Last December, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned Mr. Fujimori on medical grounds.

The announcement took Peru by surprise as Mr. Kuczynski was not an ally of the ex-president. But he was facing an impeachment threat led by the former president’s daughter, Ms. Fujimori, who held a seat in Congress, leading many to see the pardon as part of a deal for the president’s survival.

But the move backfired as victims’ groups organized protests, and the United Nations condemned the release. By March, Ms. Fujimori led another push to oust Mr. Kuczynski amid a corruption scandal, and the president resigned.

The former dictator, meanwhile, had remained a free man.

Francisco Soberón, the director of the Association for Human Rights, a Peruvian group, applauded the court’s decision to put Mr. Fujimori back in jail.

“It’s a great achievement for the families after 26 years of struggling for justice that was cut short by that terrible pardon,” he said. “It is an encouragement for justice in Peru,” he said, describing the system as in a state of crisis because of widespread corruption.

Victims groups had previously sought a reversal of the pardon, bringing a case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights this year. The court, in turn, sent the case back to Peru’s government, asking it to examine whether the pardon was legal.

Aníbal Quiroga, a law professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, said that even though the president can pardon criminals, the Supreme Court had a strong case for overruling Mr. Fujimori’s pardon. Peru may have run afoul of international treaties by freeing someone of Mr. Fujimori’s stature who was convicted of human rights violations, he said.

While Peru has been known for a growing economy and popular tourist sites, Mr. Fujimori’s release was a reminder of a more bitter era that many in the country would rather forget.

The son of Japanese immigrants, Mr. Fujimori was elected in 1990 as a political outsider at a time when the Shining Path and the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, left-wing rebel groups, challenged the military and engaged in terror campaigns that left around 70,000 people dead. Hyperinflation was racking Peru’s economy.

Claiming that Congress was incapable of taking on either threat, Mr. Fujimori suspended the Constitution and ruled as an autocrat. While he eventually restored laws and was re-elected in 1995, his government came increasingly under suspicion for corruption, attacks on political opponents and massacres of civilians. After resigning in 2000, he fled to Japan.

His 2009 trial exposed some of the darkest days of the dictatorship. The court found that Mr. Fujimori had created a death squad in the 1990s that had murdered 15 people at a neighborhood gathering in Lima and another 10 who were kidnapped and whose bodies were later burned. Among the dead was an 8-year-old boy.

Despite the conviction, Mr. Fujimori and his political family remain popular among many Peruvians for having defeated the Shining Path.

His daughter, Ms. Fujimori, wields vast power in the Congress, where her party has the largest number of seats. Martín Vizcarra, the president who took over after Mr. Kuczynski’s resignation, has yet to establish himself as a powerful force.

Fernando Tuesta, a political scientist in Lima, said that Ms. Fujimori’s political star continues to rise and that she will likely use her aging father’s imprisonment as a rallying cry.

“I think that she is going to take this to the streets in the next few days to boost her candidates” in coming elections, Mr. Tuesta said. “They will take advantage of this"

Source: New York Times

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