LIMA – Alberto Fujimori, the former authoritarian leader of Peru, left hospital in the capital Lima a free man on Thursday, days after being granted a presidential pardon.
The 79-year-old waved to supporters outside the hospital from his wheelchair, reigniting anger over a pardon he secured from President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on Christmas Eve.
He had been serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses during his time in office in the 1990s.
The pardon has polarized Peru, triggering anti-government protests and political resignations that have shaken Kuczynski’s already-weak government. Kuczynski said last week he would unveil a new cabinet soon, but has announced no details yet.
Last week, a group of Peruvian writers condemned the decision by the authorities to pardon him on health grounds. The writers, among them Nobel Prize-winning author Mario Vargas Llosa, called it a disgrace for Peru.
Earlier in the week, thousands of people took to the streets in Lima and other cities to protest against the pardon.
Mr Fujimori’s son, Congressman Kenji Fujimori, tweeted a photo with his father taken following his release from hospital.
Con mi papá! 🎉🙏🏻🎉 pic.twitter.com/ibRMQM1ipv
— Kenji Fujimori (@KenjiFujimoriH) January 5, 2018
The conservative Popular Force (FP) party, led by Alberto Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko, controls Congress and had tried to impeach President Kuczynski over a corruption scandal.
However, her brother Kenji split the FP vote, allowing the president to stay in power and prompting the accusation that Mr. Fujimori’s release had been promised in exchange. Mr. Kuczynski denies the claim.
Fujimori, 79, was trailed by police escorts and news cameras as he arrived at a sprawling house in the upscale district of La Molina in Lima, the Peruvian capital.
Wearing a jacket and blue shirt, a smiling Fujimori appeared alert as he waved to crowds outside the Lima hospital where he had been interned for what his doctor called life-threatening blood-pressure and heart problems on the eve of the pardon.
Mr. Fujimori’s critics consider him a corrupt dictator but to his supporters, he was the president who saved Peru from the twin evils of terrorism and economic collapse.