Peru annuls ex-leader Fujimori's pardon and orders his capture

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s former authoritarian president Alberto Fujimori was transported by ambulance to a local clinic on Wednesday after a judge annulled a pardon granted to him last year and ordered his immediate capture and return to prison.

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The ruling by Supreme Court Judge Hugo Nunez marked the latest reversal in fortunes for Fujimori, an agricultural engineer who rose to the presidency on a populist platform in 1990 and a decade later resigned by fax from his parents’ homeland of Japan amid graft and human rights abuse allegations.

Fujimori’s attorney Miguel Perez immediately filed an appeal and requested a suspension of the arrest order, arguing that Fujimori suffers from heart problems that put him at risk of dying if sent back to jail. Perez said by telephone that it could take weeks for a ruling on the appeal.

Fujimori, who has been hospitalized several times in recent years, was rushed to the clinic from his house several hours after the ruling, according to Reuters witnesses.

“Today I’m with you again in an ambulance,” Fujimori’s lawmaker son Kenji said on Twitter. “I feel much sorrow.”

Following his extradition to Peru in 2007, Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years in prison for commanding death squads that massacred civilians in a counterinsurgency campaign during his rightwing government. He was later found guilty of corruption.

Former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski granted Fujimori a humanitarian pardon on Christmas Eve, three days after Kuczynski narrowly survived an impeachment vote with the help of Fujimori’s supporters in Congress.

Kuczynski, who is known as PPK, had cited Fujimori’s poor health for the pardon, saying he did not want a former president to die in prison. But the pardon was widely seen as part of a political deal, and human rights lawyers challenged it on grounds it violated Peruvian and international law on humanitarian pardons.

“This pardon was an illegal scheme between Fujimori and PPK,” leftist lawmaker Indira Huilca wrote on Twitter. Huilca’s union leader father was killed in 1992 in what the Inter-American Court of Human Rights deemed an extrajudicial killing. “Fujimori must complete his sentence through 2032.”

A deeply divisive figure in Peru, Fujimori is seen as a corrupt dictator by some and as a misunderstood hero by others. His supporters credit him with quashing leftist rebels and saving Peru from economic ruin in the 1990s.

More than a quarter century since leaving office, Fujimori’s legacy and family continue to set the political agenda in Peru. Fujimori’s daughter Keiko is the leader of the country’s most powerful opposition party, and Kenji has sought to challenge her leadership of their father’s political following.

Keiko alleged the ruling was part of political persecution against the Fujimoris. “It’s extremely painful to know that a judge has taken my father’s freedom away,” Keiko, crying, said outside her father’s house.

Kuczynski, who turned 80 on Wednesday, resigned due to a graft scandal in March and is now under investigation by public prosecutors in connection with Fujimori’s pardon.

Reporting by Teresa Cespedes in Lima Additional reporting by Mitra Taj in La Paz, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Tom Brown