Madagascar: Madagascar`s President Hery Rajaonarimampianina on Wednesday pardoned five political prisoners who had got stiff prison sentences for allegedly plotting against his predecessor, who took power in a coup.
The five men bore allegiance to former president Marc Ravalomanana and were accused of plotting against the capital city`s ex-mayor Andry Rajoelina, who ultimately toppled Ravalomanana.
They include Ravalomanana`s former military adviser Jean Heriniaina Raoelina, who was sentenced to life for the February 2009 massacre of Rajoelina`s supporters in front of the presidential palace during riots that led to Ravalomanana`s ouster.
He was also charged with an attempted coup bid against Rajoelina in November 2010.
Earlier this month, Madagascar`s president and four of his predecessors met for the first time in a bid to restore national unity that quickly produced a pledge to free the country`s political prisoners.
The four former presidents who attended the meeting were Albert Zafy, Didier Ratsiraka, Ravalomanana and Rajoelina.
Ravalomanana, ousted by Rajoelina in a 2009 coup, has been under house arrest in a northern town of Antsiranana (also known as Diego Suarez) since returning from exile in South Africa in October.
Madagascar`s roughly dozen political prisoners are to be released before the year`s end, though those ex-soldiers who staged mutinies against previous governments will still face trial for their acts.
National reconciliation is one of the main points of a roadmap brokered by the southern African regional bloc SADC and signed by the feuding parties in 2011 to end political crises that have long plagued the country.
Former finance minister Rajaonarimampianina became president in elections held a year ago. That vote was designed to resolve a crisis that brought international isolation and trashed the Malagasy economy.