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Thousands protest in Peru after 'grateful' ex-president pardoned

By
Susan McFarland
Riot police officers block passage of protesters during a demonstration against the pardon to ex-president Alberto Fujimori, in Lima, Peru on Monday. Photo by Eduardo Cavero/EPA-EFE
Riot police officers block passage of protesters during a demonstration against the pardon to ex-president Alberto Fujimori, in Lima, Peru on Monday. Photo by Eduardo Cavero/EPA-EFE

Dec. 26 (UPI) -- Police in Peru fired tear gas at crowds of angry Peruvians during a protest over President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's decision to pardon and release former President Alberto Fujimori from prison.

Crowds chanted, "traitor" and, "the pardon has got to go" during the clash on the streets of Lima.

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Fujimori, who'd been serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses, was released Sunday for health reasons. He was Peru's leader from 1990 to 2000.

From his hospital bed, Fujimori thanked Kuczynski and said in a Facebook video he was "deeply grateful." He added that hearing the news had "a strong impact on me, a mix of extreme happiness as well as sorrow".

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"I'm aware that the results produced by my government were well received by some," Fujimori said. "But I recognize that I have let down others. Those I ask for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart."

Fujimori's term began in 2007 with a six-year sentence for bribery and abuse of power. Two years into that sentence, Fujimori was given another 25 years for human rights abuses that included authorizing death squad killings.

Kuczynski said reason for clemency was because Fujimori has low blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. A statement by Kuczynski said he is "convinced that those of us who consider ourselves democrats cannot allow Alberto Fujimori to die in prison."

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"Justice is not vengeance. All pardons are by nature controversial," he added. "My decision is especially complex and difficult, but it is my decision. I can not only be the president of those that voted for me, I need to be it for all Peruvians."

Kuczynski denies pardoning Fujimori is part of a deal with his party to distract from a corruption probe involving Brazil-based conglomerate Odebrecht.

Peruvian lawmakers Vicente Zeballos, Alberto de Belaunde and Gino Costa all said they plan to resign in protest of the presidential pardon.

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