Ivory Coast leader pardons third of prisoners
Abidjan - Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara has pardoned nearly a third of the West African country's prison population, the government announced on Friday.
Each year the head of state orders the release of a number of convicted criminals on 7 August, when the country marks its independence from France in 1960.
A cabinet statement said more than 3 000 had been pardoned this year.
"This concerns a category of sentenced inmates who, for the most part, present no particular danger to society", the statement said. The offences, most a result of acute poverty, "are considered minor".
"The aim is to give these people a second chance to make their way in society", government spokesman Bruno Kone said.
People found guilty of military offences, human rights abuses, violent robbery, narcotics crimes, embezzling public funds, corruption, offending public morals and kidnapping children are not entitled to a pardon, Kone added.
No mention was made of jailed supporters of former president Laurent Gbagbo, who ruled over a nation mired in strife from 2000 until he was ousted in 2011, after refusing to admit defeat by Ouattara at the polls the previous year.
A post-election conflict claimed some 3 000 lives and Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party claims that at least 700 of his followers have been thrown behind bars.
The ex-president has been detained at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which in June decided to try him on charges of crimes against humanity.
Most of the country's 33 prisons are overcrowded. The largest, the Maca in the economic capital Abidjan, was built for 1 500 detainees but houses more than 4 600, according to official figures.
Several jails have been renovated to remedy serious damage done during years of crisis and in mass escapes by inmates.