Donald Trump pardons controversial former Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Arpaio praised the president on Twitter after the pardon

Donald Trump pardons controversial former Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Joe Arpaio answers questions at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in 2012 | Image: Jack Kurtz/Zuma Press/PA Images

US President Trump has pardoned a former Arizona sheriff, who was found guilty of criminal contempt.

Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona violated a federal court order that prohibited illegal detentions based on suspicions about immigration status.

The ruling stemmed from an initial lawsuit brought by Latino residents of Maricopa.

They successfully challenged policies of, what rights groups say were, racial profiling and illegal detentions.

The plaintiff class was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and partner organisations.

The ACLU say Mr Arpaio "repeatedly flouted" court orders in the case, leading to both civil and criminal contempt rulings against him.

ACLU deputy legal director, Cecillia Wang, says: "With his pardon of Arpaio, Trump has chosen lawlessness over justice, division over unity, hurt over healing.

"Once again, the president has acted in support of illegal, failed immigration enforcement practices that target people of colour and have been struck down by the courts.

"His pardon of Arpaio is a presidential endorsement of racism."

Preident Trump said Mr Arpaio "kept Arizona safe", calling him an "American patriot":

Tweeting after the pardon, Mr Arpaio thanked his supporters and President Trump:

Arpaio could have faced six months in jail at his sentencing in October.

In a brief statement, the White House said: "Throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio continued his life's work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.

"Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now 85-years-old, and after more than 50 years of admirable service to our nation, he is (a) worthy candidate for a presidential pardon."

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer accused Mr Trump of unveiling Mr Arpaio's pardon in the midst of Hurricane Harvey.

He tweeted that "the only reason to do these right now is to use the cover of Hurricane Harvey to avoid scrutiny", adding it was "so sad, so weak".