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499 prisoners receive pardon while opposition figures remain behind bars


President Patrice Talon of Benin

President Patrice Talon of Benin has pardoned 499 prisoners but left two major opposition leaders behind bars, according to a decree made public on Friday.

According to critics, the West African state’s democracy has steadily eroded under Talon, a former cotton magnate first elected in 2016.

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Opposition leader, Joel Aivo was jailed for 10 years in December for “plotting against the state”. Reckya Madougou, a former justice minister, also received 20 years for “terrorism” days after.

Both Aivo and Madougou were prevented by God from running in an election last April in which Talon won a second term with 86 per cent of the vote.

Meanwhile, a government spokesman Wilfried Houngbedji told reporters this week that both Madougou and Aivo “could benefit from a presidential pardon under certain conditions.”

But neither were pardoned in Talon’s decree which was signed last week. Most of those released were convicted of petty crimes.

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According to Punch, the decree stated that “people sentenced for murder, conspiracy against state security, money laundering” were excluded.

“We were hoping for a presidential pardon in the case of Madougou and Aivo, but unfortunately we were wrong,” said one of Aivo’s close associate, Victor Houssou.

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