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Peruvians Debate Possible Pardon for Alberto Fujimori

One of the most debated topics right now in Peru, especially on social networks, is the possibility that ex-President Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a sentence of 25 years in prison for crimes against humanity and corruption, may receive a humanitarian pardon from President Ollanta Humana, based on alleged poor health.

This is not the first time that this issue has divided Peruvians, and this time it has resurfaced after the announcement that supporters and family members of the ex-president were considering a formal request for clemency after Christmas, claiming that his health was precarious. His son, Kenji Fujimori, Congress member, stated : “My family's decision (about the pardon) is clear(…) One look at my father will tell you his health isn't good”.

In April 2009, Alberto Fujimori was found guilty of the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta murders, and of the kidnappings of the businessman Samuel Dyer and the journalist Gustavo Gorriti. The sentence (which came after a high-profile trial that lasted almost 16 months), indicated that the ex-president was the “perpetrator” of attempted murder, murder with malice aforethought and aggravated kidnapping. Fujimori claimed his innocence.

Protest against possible pardon for Fujimori, July 15, 2011. The Advocacy Project (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

At the time, the sentence caused a worldwide reaction and was considered a milestone, since it was the first time a president was convicted of human rights violations by a court in his own country. Groups of human rights activists, union representatives, groups representing families of missing Peruvians, and bloggers, expressed their satisfaction with the sentence, but there was also a large group of Fujimori supporters who were not happy with it.

Fujimori and his family announced they would appeal the decision. Silvio Rendón noted in GranComboClub [es]:

…el juicio no fue por “aprobar una estrategia” ni por avalarla, ni por defenderla, sino por ordenar asesinatos. A Fujimori le han dado 25 años, la pena máxima posible, por asesino. No por aprobador, defensor o avalador de estrategias que enmarcaron asesinatos cometidos por otros. Considero importante que como sociedad tengamos muy claro el contenido de la sentencia al ex-presidente…

…The judgment was not for adopting, endorsing, or defending a strategy, but for ordering murders. Fujimori has been sentenced to 25 years, the maximum sentence possible for murder.. Not for approving, supporting, or endorsing strategies for murders committed by others. I think it's important that as a society we are very clear about the ex-president's sentence.

Since the beginning of 2011, as part of the recent electoral campaign, there were rumors about political reasons to pardon Fujimori. The general comment, especially during the second round, was that APRA, outgoing President ALan Garcia's party, would have given its support to Force 2011, Keiko Fujimori's party, in return for shelving and not investigating certain corruption scandals [es] in which some of its most high-profile members were involved. There was even speculation that Garcia would approve the pardon before leaving office, prompting fiery pronouncements for and against: including, with an eye toward the election, a march organized via social networks against the pardon, [es] called “March for Dignity, Fujimori Never Again”.

The journalist and blogger Claudia Cisneros posted [es] at the time:

Tenemos todo el derecho a protestar, a desconfiar y a impedir que una vez más el poder sea usado entre agrupaciones políticas para limpiarse mutuamente sus culpas y delitos. (…) Si esta vez Alan se atreve a usar el poder que el pueblo le ha dado para representarnos y lo hace para burlarse de la lucha anticorrupción, no será olvidado jamás. No solo sería un insulto a la igualdad de derechos ante la ley de miles de enfermos presos en el país, sería un insulto al sistema judicial y legal, a la justicia peruana…

We have every right to protest, to distrust and guard against power once again being used among political factions to erase each other's guilt and crimes. (…) If this time Alan tries to use the power that the people have given him to represent us to laugh at the fight against corruption, it will never be forgotten. It would not only be an insult to equal rights before the law for thousands of ill prisoners in this country, but it would be an insult to our legal and judicial system, to Peruvian justice…

Garcia did not pardon Fujimori, and the case laid dormant until President-elect Humala declared, before taking charge of the country, that he “would give him the pardon for humanitarian reasons”, because “nobody should die  in prison“.

As part of the heated debate between the pardon supporters and those opposing it [es] Twitter hashtags were created: #FujimoriLibertad and #noalindulto as well as #terrorismonuncamas, #indulto, #terrorismo o #caviares.

As far as Fujimori's health is concerned, medical sources say “he does not have an active cancer“, and that he suffers from “disorders normal for his age, but that none is life-threatening”, making it clear he is not terminal, which would render a request for a humanitarian pardon without merit.

Many social network users openly objected to the pardon, like Doc Holliday (@TheGunMan) [es] and Martha (@Marta_dm) [es] who tweeted:

Lo unico q digo es q si@Ollanta_HumalaT da indulto va a perder mucho apoyo empezando por mi. Cc @NadineHeredia #noalindulto

All I can say is that if @Ollanta_HumalaT grants the pardon, he's going to lose a lot of support, starting with me. Cc @NadineHeredia #noalindulto

Marco Silva Santisteban [es] writes on Facebook:

¿Crees que Fujimori pensó en la depresión y el dolor de sus víctimas inocentes entre las que había un niño de ocho años? Justicia no es venganza, indulto es impunidad..

Do you think Fujimori thought about the depression and pain of his innocent victims, one of whom was an eight year old child? Justice is not revenge, pardon is impunity.

Others openly expressed their support in favor of the pardon, like Sydney Fernández de Castro [es]:

Y así, el Poder Judicial se convirtió en Terrucos Airlines. Ollanta, ahí está tu línea aérea de bandera. La Berenson de vacaciones navideñas en New York (tremenda atea) y Mellado seguro veraneando en Viña. Y calladitos los caviares.  Sí al indulto a Fujimori!!!

And so, the judiciary became Terrucos (terrorists) Airlines. Ollanta, there's your national airline. Berenson gets a Christmas vacation in New York (tremendous atheist) and Mellado is surely summering in Viña. And the “caviars” (translator note: leftist “burgeoisie”) say nothing. Yes to a pardon for Fujimori!

And Malumarket (@Malumarket) [es]:

Gracias Fujimori!!! Por haber logrado que podamos pasar la navidad sin terrucos, sin coches bomba y sin miedo!!#FujimoriLIBERTAD

Thank you Fujiromi! For having achieved a Christmas without terrorists, without car bombs and without fear! #FujimoriLIBERTAD

It was even said that APRA was still aligned with Fujimori, and that APRA Congress members were negotiating their support of Humala in exchange for the pardon for their leader. Fujimorist congress members, led by Martha Chávez, denied that report [es].

But the rumors gained more strength after a known APRA jurist, Javier Valle Riestra (an ex prime minister for Fujimori, [es] in 1998) published an article about it and stated on local television that Fujmori should be released even if he was healthy: “…The pardon and amnesty would contribute to national peace(…) Fujimori could be an athlete and still should be released…”. [es]

Jurists and human rights activists argue that those convicted of crimes of the magnitude of those committed by Fujimori cannot avail themselves of pardons. The blogger Herbert Mujica [es] notes:

En el caso de Fujimori, no es solo una ley que prohíbe el indulto por el delito de secuestro que ha sido condenado, sino dos. La Ley 26478, promulgada por él mismo en 1995 antes de su condena; y la Ley 28760, dada durante el gobierno de Alejandro Toledo. Ambas son leyes expresas que la Comisión de Gracias Presidenciales debe acatar, salvo que sus 5 miembros quieran asumir su responsabilidad penal por encubrimiento personal, delito previsto en el Artículo 404° del Código Penal. Igual suerte correría el Presidente Ollanta si concede el indulto pese a todo, violando leyes prohibitivas expresas. Su rol presidencial es cumplirlas. La Constitución no le faculta violar las leyes aprobadas por el Congreso y promulgadas por el mismo Presidente.

In the case of Fujimori, it isn't only one law that prohibits the pardon because of the crime of kidnapping for which he was convicted, but two. Law 26478, enacted by Fujimori himself in 1995 before his conviction; and Law 28760, enacted during Alejandro Toledo's government. Both laws specify that the Commission of Presidential Pardons must comply, unless its five members want to assume criminal responsibility for aiding and abetting, a crime under Article 404 of the Penal Code. This would apply as well if President Ollanta grants the pardon in spite of everything, violating laws expressly prohibiting it. His presidential role is to follow them. The Constitution does not provide for violating laws passed by Congress and enacted by the President himself.

In the meantime, in spite of everything, some are showing their support of Fujimori, voting for him for “El Peruano del Año 2011” (Peruvian of the Year 2011) [es] on an online poll from a local radio station.

Prensa Alternativa (@PrensaAlterna) [es] tweets:

La defensa de los DDHH es la piedra angular de toda sociedad democratica.Quedarse callado es hacerle el juego al autoritarismo #NoAlIndulto

The defense of DDHH (human rights) is the cornerstone of a democratic society. To keep quiet is playing into authoritarianism. #NoAlIndulto

The impact and repercussions in public opinion have been so serious that even promoters of the pardon are starting to believe that it would be better to wait for a more favorable climate, [es] although a recent polls shows that 42% believe Fujimori should be pardoned (while 27% think he should continue to be imprisoned, and 26% think he should be given house arrest.)

Undoubtedly, this issue is not over and will last a long time, and Twitter user Omar (@omarzev) [es] predicts:

Nos espera una dura batalla contra el indulto a Fujimori #noalindulto

We can expect a long battle over the pardon for Fujimoto.
Thumbnail image of Alberto Fujimori under public domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons

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