SUDAN: PRESIDENT OMAR AL-BASHIR PARDONS 259 REBELS
March 8, 2017:
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir pardoned 259 rebels captured in fighting with government forces, including dozens who had been sentenced to death. (Sources: aljazeera.com, 08/03/2017)
Bashir's order came three days after a prominent insurgent group freed dozens of prisoners, mostly soldiers, it had captured in fighting with government forces.
"The decision to pardon 259 rebels aims at preparing the environment for achieving lasting peace in the country," Bashir's office said in a statement.
Those pardoned include 66 rebels who had been sentenced to death.
Of the 259 rebels to be released now, dozens were captured in 2015 after fierce fighting in war-torn South Darfur between government forces and rebels.
Although the presidency did not specify which group these rebels belonged to, government forces in 2015 fought pitched battles with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in South Darfur.
Forty-four rebels also among those pardoned were captured in the city of Omdurman in 2008 after similar clashes between government forces and JEM fighters.
"The decision to pardon is a progressive step and would help in the ceasing of hostilities," Nur Ahmed al-Nur, editor-in-chief of Assayha newspaper, told AFP news agency.
On March 5, another prominent rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), freed at least 125 prisoners, mostly soldiers.
The prisoners had been captured in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, where the SPLM-N has been fighting government forces for years.
Bashir, who has ruled Sudan for nearly three decades, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur. He steadfastly denies the charge.