Protests in Peru after court orders release of Keiko Fujimori

Opposition leader is accused of money laundering and receiving illegal contributions from Brazilian company Odebrecht.

    Keiko Fujimori is the daughter of Peru's former president, Alberto Fujimori, and leader of the opposition party [Martin Mejia/AP]
    Keiko Fujimori is the daughter of Peru's former president, Alberto Fujimori, and leader of the opposition party [Martin Mejia/AP]

    Peru's Constitutional Tribunal on Monday ordered the release of opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, sparking protests in capital Lima.

    The members of Peru's top court decided to release Fujimori by a narrow margin of four votes in favour versus three against, the body's president Ernesto Blume said at a news conference.

    Fujumori was jailed last year for alleged money laundering and receiving illegal contributions from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

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    Fujimori has been serving an 18-month pre-trial sentence since October 2018 after prosecutors said she led a criminal organisation and received millions of dollars from Odebrecht during her 2011 election campaign.

    She denies the accusations.

    "The court has not passed judgement on the substantive issue in the case of citizen Keiko Fujimori, and has not declared her acquittal or condemned her," Blume said.

    Fujimori is the daughter of the country's authoritarian former President Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year sentence for human rights crimes and corruption.

    The decision comes as the country prepares to hold legislative elections on January 26 after President Martin Vizcarra dissolved Congress amid a battle with politicians over his anti-corruption campaign.

    Keiko Fujimori's Popular Force party had held a majority in Congress before its dissolution.

    Popular Force, a conservative right-wing group, has announced it will participate in the January elections, but Fujimori is not expected to take part.

    Follow the court order, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in downtown Lima to protest against Fujimori's release.

    Scuffles broke out between police and protesters, as some of them threw stones and bottles at officers.

    Police attempted to repel the attacks with their shields, also using them to push back against demonstrators.

    The protest was coordinated through social media, by mainly young people.

    Brazil corruption probe sends shivers across Latin America

    Meanwhile, about 200 supporters of Fujimori also gathered in the Peruvian capital to celebrate her release.

    Carrying posters that read "Keiko, you are not alone," and "Enough already, #KeikoFreedom," the crowd sang and danced in honor of Fujimori's pending release, which takes effect November 28.

    Miguel Torres, a former congressman from the Popular Force political party said that the opposition leader was "super excited" and also "very anxious" to see her husband and daughters.

    Fujimori is one of Peru's most powerful politicians but has experienced a stunning downfall since her detention in October 2018.

    Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction giant has admitted to doling out millions to politicians around Latin America in exchange for lucrative contracts.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency