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Last Updated: Monday, 28 August 2006, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Algeria amnesty deadline expiring
An alleged militant is freed from an Algerian jail
Amnesty was extended to jailed suspects as well as those at large
A six-month amnesty offered by Algeria to Islamic militants on condition of surrender expires on Monday.

There have been calls for an extension since fewer than 300 have come forward.

Militants have been promised immunity from prosecution provided they have not been involved in serious crimes such as massacres, rapes and bombings.

A decision on an extension rests with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is expected to rule after studying a report on the outcome of the offer.

Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem from the National Liberation Front, the main party in the governing coalition, says militants should be given more time.

But an Islamist group in the coalition, the Movement of a Peaceful Society (MSP), said it was important to respect deadlines laid down in the charter.

The group added that ending the amnesty "does not mean that we will shut the doors in the face of those who want to surrender," the AFP news agency reported.

Charter

The amnesty was among the measures set down in a peace and reconciliation charter approved in a national referendum last September, as part of efforts to end almost 15 years of political violence in Algeria.

It came into effect in February after being approved in a referendum last year, and allowed the release of suspected militants from jail as well as amnesty for those at large who surrendered.

The amnesty has been criticised in some quarters for granting the military immunity from prosecution.

It has also been rejected by the Salafist Group for Fighting and Preaching (GSPC) - the only militant group which remains active, though its capacity is limited.

The amnesty is the second since President Abdelaziz Bouteflika took office seven years ago.

He says it will help heal Algeria's wounds after years of a brutal and bloody conflict.

The conflict erupted in 1992 after the authorities annulled a general election.


SEE ALSO
Q&A: Algerian referendum
28 Sep 05 |  Africa
Timeline: Algeria
14 Apr 05 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Algeria
13 Jul 04 |  Country profiles

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