Mediators hold talks with Maoist leader in jail

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Bhubaneswar, Feb 22: Maoist-chosen mediators discussed certain key demands of the rebels with hardcore Naxal leader Ganti Prasadam here Tuesday. As negotiations for the release of the abducted Malkangiri district collector and a junior engineer reached a crucial stage.

Soon after Prasadam was brought to the state capital from Koraput jail amidst tight security, interlocutors Prof G Hargopal and Dandapani Mohanty met him at the high-security jail at Jharpada here, official sources said.

"The impasse should not be allowed to continue for long," said Prasadam.  Prasadam had expressed the desire to participate in the negotiation to end the six-day hostage crisis following abduction of RV Krishna and junior engineer Pabitra Majhi.

"Ganti Prasadam was shifted to Bhubaneswar from Koraput with the prior permission of local sub-divisional judicial magistrate on security reason", a senior Koraput prison official said.

A close aide of top Maoist leader Ramakrishna, Prasadam has moved a bail petition before the Orissa High Court along with four other Naxal leaders. The state government has decided not to oppose Prasadam's bail, sources said.

Participation of Prasadam in the negotiations remained one of the major demands of the Maoists who had abducted Krishna and Majhi on Feb 16 from Chitrakonda area of Malkangiri district.

Prof Hargopal had earlier suggested to the state government that Prasadam's release from jail would help in ensuring safe release of the abducted officials.

Prasadam's talks with the mediators assumed significance as it came at a time when negotiation for the release of the hostages have reached a crucial phase. The talks hope to settle sensitive and contentious demands like release of Maoists and tribals jailed on charge of being Naxals.

While eight of the 14 demands of Maoists were settled on second day of talks between mediators and state government officials. Discussion on the remaining six would hold key to resolution of crisis, the sources said.

PTI

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