By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Kinshasha: Twenty-two men convicted over the 2001 assassination of the former Democratic Republic of the Congo President Laurent-Desire Kabila have been released from prison after receiving pardons from current leader Felix Tshisekedi.
Among those released on Friday from the Makala prison in the capital Kinshasa was the slain president’s former aide-de-camp Colonel Eddy Kapend, who has always denied any part in the plot to murder Kabila, who was the father of Joseph Kabila, Tshisekedi’s predecessor.
The 22 convicted men were first handed death sentences, which were then commuted to jail terms by Tshisekedi last June.
He issued the pardon on December 31, several weeks after a coalition he formed with Kabila supporters ended.
The pardons are “for purely humanitarian reasons”, Deputy Justice Minister Bernard Takaishe told the 22 men at the ceremony, stressing that this did not amount to a “blank cheque”.
“You can’t just go out tomorrow and get yourself into the kind of situation which deprived you of your freedom,” he told them, adding that the pardon would not erase the men’s criminal record.
The measure was taken “quite simply because we want to put the country back on track, to bring some peace to the Congolese people”, he said.