(Bloomberg) -- Peru freed jailed former President Alberto Fujimori on Wednesday evening, in the Andean country’s most dramatic challenge yet to an international court that counts all of Latin America’s major economies as members.
On Tuesday, Peru’s top court ordered the immediate release of Fujimori, disregarding a decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, or IACHR, that he should remain in prison. The IACHR reiterated its decision on Tuesday evening when Fujimori’s release seemed imminent.
“There are few countries that have previously revolted against the IACHR, they are Nicaragua and Venezuela, so Peru would be joining a trio of rebels who defy international law,” said Diego Garcia-Sayan, a former president of the international court and most recently a United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.
Fujimori, 85, is a deeply polarizing figure in Peru. Under his 10-year rule, Peru’s economy recovered from the depths of hyperinflation and a Maoist rebel group was defeated in the early 1990s. Yet Fujimori staged an illegal power grab and was sentenced for human rights violations, including the use of death squads, in 2009.
He is in poor health and had been in prison since 2005, ultimately serving most of his 25-year sentence.
Leaving the IACHR’s jurisdiction has long been a goal among Peru’s far-right, including by Fuerza Popular, the party now led by Fujimori’s daughter Keiko. Fuerza Popular has backed current President Dina Boluarte in congress, though the unpopular leader’s approval rating has sunk below 10%.
This is not the first time a Peruvian court sought to free Fujimori. In 2022, the same top court ordered his release, but the administration then under President Pedro Castillo didn’t carry out the ruling, choosing instead to follow a separate decision from the IACHR.
Fujimori was initially pardoned in 2017 by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski at a time when Fujimori’s bloc in congress was threatening to impeach the president. Kuczynski survived the 2017 impeachment but resigned three months later following a separate ouster attempt that the Fujimori bloc supported.
Fujimori was freed in 2017 but returned to jail in 2018 when a local court overturned Kuczynski’s pardon, saying it had been obtained illegally.
(Adds Fujimori being freed in headline, first paragraph)
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