Former leader Alberto Fujimori was pardoned on humanitarian grounds on Christmas Eve. Released from a clinic less than two weeks later, he has urged Peruvians to cast aside their bitterness.

Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's decision to pardon former leader Alberto Fujimori sparked unrest and resignations. January 11, 2018
Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's decision to pardon former leader Alberto Fujimori sparked unrest and resignations. January 11, 2018 ( AFP )

Thousands of Peruvians took to the streets nationwide on Thursday to demand that President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski step down over his pardon to former strongman Alberto Fujimori – and had rallies that ended in clashes between demonstrators and police.

Police used tear gas against protesters in the capital Lima and in San Isidro, to the south.

In Lima, as night fell, protesters were still marching – police put turnout at 5,000, while local television estimated that 8,000 were on the streets.

Relatives of victims have condemned Fujimori’s pardon, but many Peruvians admire him for his ruthless campaign to put down uprisings by leftist guerrillas, and supporters have hailed the decision to free him. January 11, 2018
Relatives of victims have condemned Fujimori’s pardon, but many Peruvians admire him for his ruthless campaign to put down uprisings by leftist guerrillas, and supporters have hailed the decision to free him. January 11, 2018 ( AFP )

The 79-year-old Fujimori, who was serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses committed during his time in office from 1990 to 2000, was pardoned last month.

The move came just days after his son Kenji and other Fujimori-aligned lawmakers abstained from voting on Kuczynski's impeachment in what was seen by many as a backroom deal to save the president from corruption charges.

Kuczynski – who defeated Fujimori's daughter Keiko for the presidency in 2016 – said he had pardoned the ex-president for humanitarian reasons, reneging on an election pledge never to do so.

On Thursday, relatives of those killed under Fujimori's rule – all dressed in black – led the cortege for the rally in central Lima, under the watchful eye of police.

Rallies were also held in Arequipa, Cusco and other cities, local media said.

"Kucyzinski has to go, he has shamelessly lied to the people," said Veronika Mendoza, a former leftist candidate for president who took part in a march in Cusco.

Demonstrators carried signs with phrases like
Demonstrators carried signs with phrases like "Assassin Fujimori" and held photographs of the 25 Peruvians whose deaths the former president was convicted of playing a role in. January 11, 2018 ( Reuters )

Artist Carla Coronado, who was protesting in Lima, said of the pardon, "We are sure it was a political negotiation."

She added: "We are fed up with politics as usual and so much corruption in the country."

Victims' relatives are appealing the pardon to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which sits in Costa Rica and will hear their case on February 2.

Source: AFP