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Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Mali ex-ruler rejects pardon
Moussa Traore
Moussa Traore led Mali for 23 years
The former military ruler of Mali, Moussa Traore, who has been in jail with his wife Mariam for 11 years, is reported to have rejected an official pardon.

The pardon was announced on state television on Wednesday by President Alpha Oumar Konare, who leaves office in nine days' time.

A political ally has told the BBC's French service that when Mr Traore learned about his forthcoming release, he set conditions for his freedom.

Mr Traore is serving a life sentence for murder relating to the killing of dozens of pro-democracy protesters in the days before his downfall.

Privileges

He claims that he was in fact tried for political reasons, and that his pardon is also politically motivated.

Mr Traore, who is 65, says he first wants to be rehabilitated, so he can enjoy the privileges reserved for a former head of state.

Monument to the 'Martyrs of 26 march 2001'
This monument was erected to those killed trying to overthrow Traore

He says he has no house to go to and that his properties have been ransacked.

The BBC's Joan Baxter, in Bamako, says that the announcement of Mr Traore's pardon was perceived by many as an attempt to steal the thunder from President-elect Amadou Toumani Toure, who will take over from President Konare on 8 June.

General Toure led the coup in which Moussa Traore was toppled in 1991 and, throughout his campaign, he promised that, if elected, one of his first moves would be to release the former first couple whom he put behind bars in the first place.

'Humanitarian act'

It would have been, for Mali's new president, a highly symbolic gesture, part of Mr Toure's promise to reconcile Malians with their past.

But President Konare got there before him, using his constitutional prerogative to grant the pardon just days before he leaves office.

He called it a humanitarian act, and for many Malians, who have long since forgiven Mr Traore his excesses while in office, it was long overdue.

Amadou Toumani Toure
Toure promised reconciliation during his campaign

Chogel Maiga, whose Patriotic Movement for Renewal stems from Moussa Traore's party, told the BBC's French service that Mr Traore would not leave his confinement under Mr Konare's regime.

Mr Traore said that no witnesses and no evidence had ever been produced during his trials for murder and for economic crimes.

Moussa Traore took power in a coup in 1968 and ruled the former French colony until he was ousted by General Toure.

He was sentenced to death in 1993 after being charged with the murder of pro-democracy protesters.

Both he and his wife were condemned to death for economic crimes in 1999.

But the sentences were later reduced to life imprisonment.

Moussa Traore has been in ill-health recently, and in 2000 he and his wife spent some time in Algeria, where he underwent medical treatment.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Joan Baxter reporting for BBC Focus On Africa
"Moussa Traore flatly refused to leave the prison"

Election

Background
See also:

10 May 02 | Africa
07 May 02 | Africa
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