Malawi President Joyce Banda has pardoned 288 prisoners as part of celebrations marking this year’s Christmas and the New Year.
The Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security says the pardoned prisoners are those who were not convicted of serious offences and have served at least half of their sentences besides demonstrating good behaviour.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs wishes to announce that it has pleased Her Excellency the President, Dr. Joyce Banda to direct that 288 prisoners be pardoned…The release of the prisoners is part of this year’s Christmas and New Year Celebrations,” says the ministry in a statement issued Friday, December 20.
The President has increased by nine the number of pardoned prisoners from last year’s 279 to 288.
The release of the 288 brings to 961 prisoners the president has pardoned under 12 months after she liberated 394 others in July this year as Malawi was celebrating her 49th Independence celebrations.
In Malawi, during Independence and Christmas celebrations presidential pardons are a tradition and this is the fourth time President Banda has pardoned prisoners since assuming office in April 2012.
However, her first-ever pardon was plagued in disputes and prisoners’ riots after it was discovered that she had reportedly released two relations serving their sentences at Zomba Maximum Prison for rape and murder.
This was a sharp contradiction on her part after she had earlier on vehemently stated that no rapist would be pardoned.
In fact, Banda told the nation prior to the pardon that she had rejected 11 other recommended names because they were doing time for sex crimes.
Rape and murder are regarded as serious crimes in Malawi and ineligible for pardon.