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Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK

World: Africa

Former Malian president escapes death again

Moussa Traore has been saved from death row for a second time

The death sentences on Mali's former military leader Moussa Traore and his family have been commuted to life imprisonment.

President Alpha Konare used a special decree to grant a reprieve to mark the country's 39th anniversary of independence.

Mr Traore, his wife and her brother, were all sentenced to death by a Bamako court in January after being found guilty of economic crimes committed during 23 years of rule.

They were accused of embezzling the equivalent of $350,000.

It is the second time Moussa Traore has been saved from death row.

In 1997 he was condemned to death for 'crimes of bloodshed', a sentence that President Konare later commuted to life imprisonment.

President Konare has made it clear since coming to power that he is opposed to the death penalty. He believes only God has the right to take a life.

The former president seized power in a coup in 1968 and was himself overthrown in 1991.

A BBC correspondent in Bamako said the reprieve came as no real surprise, and many people felt that the sentence had been harsh given the relatively small amount of money involved.

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