Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta has pardoned 400 prisoners in order to stem the spread of coronavirus, his office said Tuesday.
Among those released was preacher Bandiougou Doumbia who was jailed for two years in March for comments notably praising jihadist leaders Iyad Ag Ghali and Amadou Koufa.
“As part of anti-COVID-19 measures, the president of the republic has granted pardons to 400 prisoners including the preacher Bandiougou Doumbia”, the presidency announced on social media.
All those pardoned, with the exception of Doumbia, were due for release in January 2021, Justice Minister Malick Coulibaly told AFP, adding that the move helps ease the pressure at crowded prisons.
No information was given on the identity or profiles of the other prisoners involved.
Many other countries, including fellow African nations such as Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Niger and South Africa have announced similar releases of prisoners, who are particularly at risk from the COVID-19 pandemic.
UN agencies, including the World Health Organization, have called for governments to take measures to protect those being detained, suggesting that non-violent prisoners be freed to avoid the spread of the virus.
Mali has registered 1,500 coronavirus cases, including 53 fatalities.