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South Sudan pardons over 30 political prisoners

Image of Riek Machar, former Vice President of South Sudan [Hannah McNeish/Wikipedia]

South Sudan's government announced today that the release of over 30 political prisoners is part of a presidential amnesty.

The move follows repeated calls from human rights watchdogs and the international community to free the men, as promised earlier by President Salva Kiir.

The Director of Legal Affairs at South Sudan's Internal Security Bureau, Jalban Obaj, told state-run media outlet SSBC the releases were "unconditional".

Most of the men were reportedly thrown in jail for supporting the opposition led by Riek Machar, the former first vice president.

Presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny told Anadolu Agency the decision was part of a bid to support national dialogue to help resolve the country's conflict.

Kiir launched the national dialogue attempt last December to end the country's ruinous three-year civil war.

Read: Tribal clashes in South Sudan claim 38 lives

However, rebels rejected the call and demanded the release of political prisoners as a precondition to joining the dialogue.

Ateny said opposition groups can no longer use the detention of their colleagues as a pretext to stall the dialogue process.

Human rights groups, especially Amnesty International, earlier this year reported the men had been arrested without charge and held in torturous conditions.

South Sudan, the world's youngest nation, was first plunged into war in December 2013 when a power struggle between Kiir and Machar turned into a military confrontation.

The ensuing violence was ended by a peace pact in August 2015. Nearly a year ago, Machar returned to Juba and to resume his old post, but lingering animus between the two men exploded into fighting between their rival forces again in June.

AfricaNewsSouth Sudan
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