Cotonou – Benin’s President Patrice Talon has pardoned 499 prisoners but two major opposition leaders remain behind bars, according to a decree made public on Friday.
Critics say the West African state’s democracy has steadily eroded under Talon, a former cotton magnate first elected in 2016.
In December, opposition leader Joel Aivo was jailed for 10 years for “plotting against the state”. Days later Reckya Madougou, a former justice minister, received 20 years for “terrorism”.
Both Aivo and Madougou were barred from running in an election last April in which Talon won a second term with 86 percent of the vote.
Government spokesman Wilfried Houngbedji told reporters this week that both Madougou and Aivo “could benefit from a presidential pardon under certain conditions.”
But neither were pardoned in Talon’s decree which was signed last week . Most of the those released were convicted for petty crimes.
The decree stated that “people sentenced for murder, conspiracy against state security, money laundering” were excluded.
“We were hoping for a presidential pardon in the case of Madougou and Aivo, but unfortunately we were wrong,” said one of Aivo’s close associate, Victor Houssou.
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