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Alberto Fujimori, Peru's former president, freed from prison on humanitarian grounds


The former leader of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, is out of jail. The country's constitutional court has reinstated his pardon from back in 2017, which means he is no longer serving a 25-year sentence for directing death squads against supposed subversives when he was in power. This has triggered an uproar in Peru. Simeon Tegel reports.

SIMEON TEGEL, BYLINE: With a medical oxygen tank and wearing a surgical mask, Alberto Fujimori looked frail as he took his first steps from a Lima prison he has called home for more than a decade. Revered by many for presiding over the crushing of the Shining Path Maoist insurgents who killed roughly 30,000 mainly poor Peruvians, the 85-year-old former president is equally despised by many others as a kleptocrat and serial human rights abuser who rigged elections and once shuttered Congress.

VICTORIA VIGO: (Non-English language spoken).

TEGEL: "Fujimori's sudden liberation is an insult and effectively spitting in the face of the thousands of women who were forcibly sterilized by his government," says Victoria Vigo, one of those women. The former leader and several of his health ministers are facing a potential trial for those sterilizations, carried out as part of the United Nations-backed anti-poverty program. Yet critics say most of the women targeted by the scheme were bullied or tricked into sterilizations they did not want. The former autocrat's liberation comes amid claims of irregularities by the Constitutional Court. It also comes as Peru's deeply unpopular conservative Congress, with an approval rating of just 6%, dismantles the country's democratic norms and institutions, including recently packing the Constitutional Court.


PEDRO BARRETO: (Non-English language spoken).

TEGEL: "No one, not even ex-presidents, are above the law and should serve their full sentences," says Cardinal Pedro Barreto, Peru's highest ranking Catholic archbishop, warning that Fujimori's release will cause widespread indignation in a deeply unequal society still wracked by injustice. For NPR News, this is Simeon Tegel in Lima, Peru.

(SOUNDBITE OF SUSS' "WETLANDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Simeon Tegel