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Sierra Leone leader pardons 352 inmates after failed coup

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone authorities on Monday released 352 prisoners, including 11 women and a controversial rap star, after President Julius Maada Bio offered them a New Year’s day pardon.

The move came in the wake of an alleged coup attempt on November 26, when armed attackers stormed a military armoury, two barracks, two prisons and two police stations, sparking clashes with security forces.

Twenty-one people were killed and around 2,000 prisoners escaped from the main Freetown prison before authorities were able to regain control.

The government says 85 people, mainly military personnel, have been arrested over the attacks.

One of the escapees was the controversial rapper Alhaji Amadu Bah, popularly known as Boss LAJ, who was serving a nine-year sentence for robbery.

But he later had himself filmed while turning himself in to authorities at the Freetown prison, telling his fans to “Respect peace and the law”.

“Today, the president has released our brother King Boss La and 351 other inmates across the country,” Information and Civic Education Minister Chernor Bah said in a statement to AFP.

“The president excised his powers as president based on a recommendation of a committee that followed the due process,” added Bah, who is not related to the singer.

“Our brother demonstrated good civic citizenship when he came back to prison after he was forcefully released during the November 26 failed coup and he has pledged to campaign to lift Sierra Leone above all else,” Bah said.

Colonel Sheik Massaquoi, director general of the Sierra Leone Correctional Service, said that some of the inmates released were serving time for “minor crimes” with the possibility of early release in case of good behaviour.

“The prison facilities in Freetown are overcrowded and there is an urgent need for relocation,” Massaquoi told reporters.

While in prison, Bah and other inmates released a song against an epidemic of highly addictive drug kush, which has led to numerous deaths of young Sierra Leoneans.

“I’m happy for my release today. I want peace and changes in my country,” said Bah, who had gained prominence with song lyrics criticising Bio’s government.

Dozens of jubilant supporters clad in “Welcome Home LAJ” T-shirts greeted the rapper on his release.

 

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AFP

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.







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