LIMA, Peru — Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori left the clinic Thursday where he has been receiving treatment since his controversial pardon from a 25-year jail sentence.
The 79-year-old former strongman departed in a wheelchair alongside his youngest son less than two weeks after President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski announced his release.
Dressed in jeans and a blue polo shirt, Fujimori waved to a crowd of supporters gathered outside the clinic before entering a black SUV.
“We are very happy to welcome our father in this new chapter of life!” daughter Keiko Fujimori posted on Twitter along with a photo featuring the family.
The pardon sent thousands of Peruvians into the streets in protest and drew international condemnation. United Nations human rights experts called Fujimori’s pardon an appalling “slap in the face” to the victims of human rights abuses that undermined the work of Peru’s judiciary.
The pardon came three days after Kuczynski narrowly escaped impeachment following a vote in which 10 members of Fujimori’s party unexpectedly abstained. Polls show a majority of Peruvians believe a behind-the-scene deal was struck between Kuczynski and Fujimori’s lawmaker son.
Kuczynski’s allies have denied any such quid pro quo took place.
Fujimori was convicted in 2009 for his role in the killings of 25 people, including an 8-year-old boy, during his decade-long rule. He was also later found guilty of having had knowledge of the existence of death squads financed with public money that killed civilians accused of being Shining Path members.
Some Peruvians credit him with stabilizing the economy and defeating the country’s Maoist guerrillas while others condemn him for permitting widespread human rights violations.
Fujimori apologized to Peruvians from his hospital bed following his release.
“I have disappointed some compatriots,” he said. “I ask them for forgiveness with all my heart.”
Fujimori’s pardon and Kuczynski’s near impeachment have thrown the nation with one of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies into a new period of uncertainty. Kuczynski was already deeply unpopular before an opposition-led investigation revealed his private consulting firm had accepted $782,000 in payments from the Brazilian construction company at the center of the region’s largest corruption scandal. The payments were made when Kuczynski was a high-ranking minister over a decade ago.
The former Wall Street banker repeatedly denied having had any knowledge of the transactions.
Several key members of Kuczynski’s government have resigned since the vote.
Fujimori had requested a pardon since 2013, but authorities said he did not suffer from any grave, incurable illness. That changed on Christmas Eve when Kuczynski announced he was freeing Fujimori for “humanitarian reasons” after doctors determined he suffered from incurable and degenerative problems. Not details have been provided on exactly what condition Fujimori is facing.
Peruvian law says that no person convicted of murder or kidnapping can receive a presidential pardon except in the case of a terminal illness.