U.S. President Donald Trump has pardoned the highly controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio, notorious for his tough-talking methods.
Arpaio was one of the most controversial law enforcement officers in the U.S. during his time as sheriff of Maricopa County in the state of Arizona for breaking the law and being extremely harsh, especially against immigrants. The now 85-year-old had tens of thousands picked up in raids from 1992 to 2016 as a Republican county sheriff, even though there was nothing against them.
Trump attested to Arpaio’s "exemplary selfless public service". "After more than 50 years of admirable service to our nation, he deserves a presidential pardon," a White House statement said Friday (local time).
With the first pardon of his term, Trump is pouring fuel on the fire of the country’s simmering racism debate, according to human and civil rights activists. They have sharply criticized Arpaio for years.
Arpaio was facing a six-month prison sentence from October on, to which a federal court in Phoenix had sentenced him in July. He was found guilty of disobeying a court order as sheriff to refrain from discriminating against and ethnically persecuting immigrants.
Trump had publicly considered the pardon several weeks ago. Arpaio had supported Trump in the 2016 election campaign to the best of his ability and was also traded for a government office.
As sheriff, Arpaio had a notorious prison tent city set up on the outskirts of Phoenix in the sweltering heat of the U.S. Southwest. He had the inmates outfitted with pink underwear. They received food only twice a day, allegedly always without pepper and salt for financial reasons.