Deby offers amnesty to war prisoners
N'Djamena - Chad's president Idriss Deby Itno has issued an amnesty for all rebel prisoners of war ahead of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the country's independence, national radio reported on Monday.
A second decree granted clemency to former leaders of the rebel Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD) who had been condemned to death or to life in prison by the appeal court.
The first decree, read out on the radio, declared that the amnesty applied to "crimes committed by all prisoners of war belonging to the different politico-military groups".
The second decree granted clemency to Taher Guinassou, Taher Wodji, Djougourou Hemichi, Moita Ahmat Djibrine Azene and Djibrine Dassert, former leaders of General Mahamat Nouri's UFDD.
They had been convicted of having "attacked the constitutional order, the integrity of the territory and the security of the state".
The first four on the list had surrendered to the authorities in November on the understanding that an amnesty was in the offing, said a UFDD official.
The fifth man on the list, Colonel Djibrine Dassert of the Movement for Peace Reconciliation and Development (MPRD), was captured last week in the south of the country, according to the army. Already convicted in absentia, he had been awaiting sentence.
Sign of good faith
Six months after a rebel offensive, which in February 2008 reached the gates of the presidential palace, Chad's courts condemned 11 rebel leaders to death in trials held in their absence, with another 31 sentenced to hard labour.
In the last year however, Chad and neighbouring Sudan, have been normalising their relations after five years of tense relations.
Each had accused the other of harbouring and supporting the rebel forces devoted to overthrowing their respective regimes. But as a sign of good faith, both countries recently expelled the leaders of the rebel groups fighting against their neighbour.
Chad on Tuesday celebrates 50 years of independence in the presence of 14 foreign heads of state. Independence was actually granted on August 11 1960, but the festivities were delayed six months to avoid the rainy season.
On February 06, the country will vote in legislative elections; in the first round of the presidential election on April 03; and in local elections on June 26.