The office of the Malian presidency says President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has pardoned 400 prisoners in order to stem the spread of coronavirus.
A statement from President Keita’s office says 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.
Justice Minister Malick Coulibaly told AFP that all those pardoned, with the exception of Doumbia, were due for release in January 2021, adding that the move helps ease the pressure at crowded prisons.
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.