Malawi leader pardons 403 prisoners
06 July 2014, 18:16
Blantyre - Malawi's new President Peter Mutharika pardoned 403 prisoners on Saturday ahead of celebrations to mark 50 years since the country gained independence from Britain.
"The pardon of the prisoners is a symbol of forgiveness as the country commemorates its golden jubilee of independence" on Sunday, the home affairs ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said those pardoned "have served at least half of their prison sentences, with good behaviour and were not convicted of serious offences."
The pardoning of prisoners is common in Malawi during independence celebrations, as well as at Easter and Christmas.
In 2008, former president Joyce Banda released 377 prisoners to mark the 48th anniversary of independence.
Mutharika defeated Banda in May elections, and has vowed to root out corruption in Malawi, which is among the world's poorest countries.
The country's 23 prisons are notorious for the poor conditions in which inmates are kept. They currently hold some 12 000 inmates - double their capacity - and a former top judge has described them as "hell on earth".