President pardons 66 convicts

Central African Republic (CAR) President Ange-Felix Patasse on 1 December - the 44th anniversary of the CAR's achieving self-government - pardoned 66 convicts serving sentences of less than five years, and reduced by half the sentences of those serving sentences of between six and 10 years.

"For those sentenced to less than five years' imprisonment, the pardon is total, while for those sentenced to between six and 10 years, the penalty will reduced by half," Dominique Saidi Panguindji, the prosecutor of the court of first instance in the capital, Bangui, told IRIN on Monday.

Among the 66 detainees who were immediately released, 32 were serving sentences in connection with the 28 May 2001 abortive attempt by former President Andre Kolingba. Those whose penalty was halved numbered about five, said Panguindji, adding that the presidential clemency would not apply to those sentenced in absentia.

Analysts say Patasse granted this pardon just before the announced national reconciliation dialogue scheduled to commence later this month in order to demonstrate to the nation and the international community his goodwill and his readiness to forgive.

"This proves his willingness to promote reconciliation among the CAR people and to call the exiles back home," said Panguindji, adding that this presidential clemency differed from an amnesty, which required the approval of the National Assembly.