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1958: Algeria prisoners freed to win Muslim support
France has ordered the release of 30 Algerian political prisoners in a move aimed at winning Muslim support over French plans for the colony's future.

General Charles de Gaulle has already unveiled proposals for local elections in Algeria - and for a referendum of all French citizens on changes to the constitution which would give him far-reaching powers as president.

He was invited back as French prime minister on 1 June to deal with the civil war in Algeria which was threatening to spill over into France. General de Gaulle was viewed as the only man capable of ensuring the obedience of French generals in Algeria.

The crisis in Algeria reached a head on 13 May when an army junta seized control of Algiers and General Raoul Salan announced that the army was in charge of the country's destiny.

Equal rights

There have been a growing number of casualties in the war between those who wish to see Algeria remain a French colony and the Muslim nationalists who want the colony to break its ties with France.

At a meeting of the Council of Ministers in Paris today plans were discussed for limiting the powers of the French military authorities in Algeria.

It is understood the leader of the insurrection, General Salan, will remain in control but only temporarily. A new military commander in chief is to be appointed to replace him and he is to be relieved of his civil powers.

During a visit to Algeria earlier this month, the General spoke of giving equal rights to all Algerians whatever their race or creed, whether they were French settlers or Muslims.

He referred to the Muslim rebel forces who had put up "a brave fight" and had to be brought back "within the French fold".

He also promised everyone would have a vote in the local elections. Until recently, pressure from the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) would have made it impossible for Muslims to express their opinions freely.

The General is returning to Algeria later this week.

Reports from Algiers suggest General Salan and his ruling Committee of Public Safety are making a number of demands. There are also claims that 100 or so "undesirables", members of political parties and civilian officials, have been expelled.

A statement issued by the group made clear the insurrection was only suspended and "the spirit of 13 May" would spread to mainland France unless General de Gaulle pushed ahead with Algerian integration.

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Prisoners wave goodbye from back of a truck
The release of Muslim prisoners is aimed at winning support for French plans

In Context
General de Gaulle went on to become the first president of the fifth republic in December 1958.

His initial plan to end the civil war and create an Algeria closely linked to France in which Europeans and Muslims would join as partners met fierce opposition.

In September 1959 General de Gaulle dramatically reversed his stand and used the term "self-determination" for the first time. He envisioned majority rule in an Algeria formally associated with France.

In 1961 Mr de Gaulle began talks at Evian which led to an agreement for Algerian independence.

In July 1962 the country was declared independent.

French officials estimate the eight years of terrorism and warfare leading to independence cost 350,000 lives - Algerian sources put the figure much higher at 1.5 million.

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