Alberto Fujimori, the jailed former president of Peru, has issued a public apology to the nation for wrongs committed under his government after a deal to release him provoked street clashes. 

Speaking in a videotaped message from his hospital bed on Tuesday, Fujimori acknowledged that some people had been "defrauded," and he asked to be forgiven.

"I am aware that the results during my government were well received on one side, but I recognize that I have let down other compatriots," the former president said. "To them, I ask for forgiveness with all my heart."

It was the ailing ex-leader’s first apology since he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for human rights abuses and corruption. 

It came after police in Lima clashed with demonstrators angry at the decision by Pablo Kuczynski, the current Peruvian president, to pardon Fujimori.

Police fired tear gas at demonstrators after Mr Kuczynski announced on Christmas Eve that he believed Fujimori should be spared from serving out his full sentence.

Alberto Fujimori and his daughter Keiko Sofia in 1998Credit:
 REUTERS/Claudia Daut

The pardon for Fujimori, whose 1990-2000 rule is viewed by critics as a dictatorship, was issued on “humanitarian grounds” after the 79-year-old was moved from jail to prison last week with low blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat.

But protestors and representatives of Fujimori victim groups said that the pardon was the result of a secret deal struck by Mr Kuczynski to avoid being removed from office on corruption allegations.

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Last Thursday Mr Kuczynski narrowly escaped impeachment for allegedly receiving illegal payments from the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht after 10 lawmakers from the conservative Popular Force party broke ranks and abstained in the parliamentary vote.

Popular Force, which holds a majority, is led by Keiko Fujmori, the former president’s daughter.

Her brother, Kenji Fujimori, led a party rebellion against the impeachment before appearing at his father’s hospital bedside to celebrate news of the pardon three days later.

“It’s a betrayal of justice,” said Carlos Rivera, a lawyer who represents relatives of victims from several massacres by security forces during Alberto Fujimori’s rule.

 Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, left, shaking hands with the leader of Fuerza Popular party, Keiko FujimoriCredit:
 AFP/Ernesto Benavides

Mr Rivera told Peru’s Canal N television channel that he would ask the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to review the presidential pardon, which he claimed was the result of an “under-the-table political deal” to keep Mr Kuczynski in power.

In a statement, Mr Kuczynski said that as a democrat, he could not allow Alberto Fujimori to die in prison.

“Justice is not vengeance,” the president added. "My decision is especially complex and difficult, but it is my decision. I cannot only be the president of those that voted for me, I need to be it for all Peruvians."

Human rights groups criticized the move, however. 

Jose Miguel Vivanco, the executive director of Human Rights Watch in the Americas, tweeted: "I regret Fujimori’s humanitarian pardon. Instead of reaffirming that in a state of law there is no special treatment for anyone, the idea that his liberation was a vulgar political negotiation in exchange for Pedro Pablo Kuczynski maintaining power will remain forever."