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Sierra Leone Frees More Prisoners

July 25, 1999

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) _ Crowds of friends and relatives cheered Sunday as 21 former supporters of Sierra Leone’s ousted junta were freed from prison under the peace agreement to end this nation’s long civil war.

The freed prisoners included the former mayor of Freetown, the former president of the Sierra Leonean Football Association and Agie Manley-Spaine, the attorney general during the junta regime.

With the new releases, 41 junta supporters have been freed since late last week, in line with the recent Lome peace agreement that formally ended eight years of fighting between the government and the rebel Revolutionary United Front.

``We feel elated,″ said Abdul Salaam Williams, the junta’s minister of labor, after he walked out of the central prison. ``We do not hold anything against anybody ... Let us move forward as we are all Sierra Leoneans.″

All those freed had been charged with collaborating with the Armed Forced Revolutionary Council, the military junta that seized control of Sierra Leone in 1997 and formed an alliance with the RUF rebels.

The junta was ousted in 1998 by the Nigerian-led West African intervention force known as ECOMOG, which returned President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah to power.

About 100 civilians were convicted of cooperating with the military government, and roughly 40 of those were sentenced to death.

The Lome peace agreement, which ended the fighting that has destroyed this nation and left tens of thousands of people dead, granted amnesty to Sierra Leone’s war criminals.

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