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Ethiopia grants amnesty to 263 prisoners

Written by: Staff
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ADDIS ABABA, Sep 12 (Reuters) Ethiopia has granted its first amnesty to prisoners in half a century, commuting death sentences against 11 people and granting full pardons or reduced terms to 252 others.

President Girma Woldegiorgise announced the pardons yesterday as part of Ethiopian New Year celebrations, saying those awarded ''had shown good discipline while in prison.'' Girma called on the pardoned prisoners to make good use of vocational training they received in prison so as to become self-supporting citizens.

Of the 263 inmates, 237 received full amnesty, while the remaining 26 including those on death row were granted reduced terms, according to Justice Ministry's Clemency Board.

Ethiopians celebrated Meskerem 1, 1999, yesterday with a national holiday. Traditionally, that date marks the end of Ethiopia's June-August rainy season where skies laden with dark clouds give way to sunshine and flowers begin to blossom.

The Horn of Africa nation follows the Julian calendar which is now roughly seven years behind the Gregorian calendar used by much of the world.

REUTERS SAM VV1729

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