LIMA Peru's government on Friday rejected a pardon request from jailed former President Alberto Fujimori, saying he does not suffer from a terminal illness, in a move likely to aggravate tensions with the opposition.
Fujimori, 74, was imprisoned on corruption and human rights convictions stemming from his 1990-2000 rule, when he beat back hyperinflation and concentrated power to crack down on a bloody leftist insurgency known as the Shining Path.
President Ollanta Humala, in an unusually stern speech, said there were no medical grounds for a humanitarian pardon and accused Fujimori of never apologizing for his crimes.
"After taking into account the concept of regret as it relates to proven corruption and human rights crimes ... I have decided to not exercise my power to pardon him," Humala said at the presidential palace.
The decision by Humala will please human rights and progressive groups that supported his 2011 campaign and later complained he has drifted too far to the right.
But it will make it tougher for him to look for votes from the opposition party in Congress, whose members still revere Fujimori. And some opinion polls have shown most Peruvians favored releasing Fujimori because he is elderly.
"I call on the political class to not turn this into a political issue," Humala said while wagging his finger.
Fujimori was sentenced in April 2009 to 25 years in prison for ordering death squads to carry out two massacres when his government was hunting down presumed leftist insurgents. Another trial convicted him of corruption and abuse of power.
Nearly 70,000 people died in atrocities committed by both sides in a civil war that the Maoist Shining Path launched in 1980, according to Peru's truth commission.
Lawmakers who support Fujimori cast doubt on the findings of a medical team that examined the former leader's health, saying their report to Humala's cabinet recommending against a pardon was flawed.
"This was a totally political decision ... and the person who took it was First Lady Nadine Heredia," said Congressman Hector Becerril of Fujimori's party.
Though she denies having political ambitions, Heredia is widely expected to run for the presidency in 2016 against Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of the former president. Humala cannot run for a second straight term.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino and Terry Wade; Editing by Sandra Maler and Vicki Allen)