S. Leone pardons 96 prisoners on 50 th independence anniversary, five of whom were on death row Sierra
Leone feted its 50th anniversary of independence from Britain on Wednesday with a colourful parade and government pardon of 96 prisoners, five of whom were on death row.
In a nationwide broadcast President Ernest Koroma hailed the country's progress since the end of a devastating decade-long civil war in 2002, one of the continent's bloodiest in which tens of thousands were killed and mutilated.
"We fought a war but we have sustained the peace that is the envy of the world. We have had spells of unelected leadership but we are today the shining example of a country that is consolidating its democracy," he said.
The speech was followed by a parade by the country's armed forces and some 4,000 school children at the national stadium in the capital Freetown.
Presidents from Mali, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia and Senegal were present as well as high-ranking delegations from the European Union, South Africa, Israel, Britain and China, foreign ministry officials said.
After Sierra Leone was recently named among countries that have officially expressed opposition to a proposed universal moratorium on the death penalty, Freetown on Wednesday pardoned five death row prisoners, including a woman.
The state pardon now leaves 8 males and 1 woman on death row, a prison officer told AFP.
According to state records, there has not been any execution in the former British colony since 1998 when 24 military officers were executed after a 1997 coup attempt.
Sierra Leone's 1991 constitution allows the use of the death penalty for aggravated robbery, murder, treason and mutiny.