POL-I-CHERKHI, Afghanistan, Feb. 7: Several hundred) prisoners convicted of crimes against state security marched out of an Afghan jail today under an amnesty decreed/as part of government drive to end the eight year old civil war.

Officials said almost 1,300 pensioners were being freed from the PolICherkhi jail, some 20 km (12 miles) east of Kabul, but Western correspondents waiting outside the gates estimated they saw only about half that number emerge today.

The detainees attended a carefully staged rally, filmed by Afghan television cameras, at which prominent political figures praised the government’s policy of national reconciliation.

They were then driven home to Kabul in a fleet of buses.

They were the first prisoners released from PolICherkhi under the terms of the amnesty announced by the revolutionary council on January 25. Other prisoners have already been freed elsewhere in the country.

The amnesty covers those sentenced to’ up to five years for security crimes, those sentenced to up to seven years who have served over four years, all women’ prisoners, those aged over 60 or charged while under 18, and those with incurable diseases. “These were not used against

the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) because it was a heavily buildup area and we wanted to avoid civilian casualties”, he said.

The LTTE is the dominant force among groups fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in the Island’s north and east. Some 5,000 people have died in the three-year separatist war.

The spokesman said soldiers met little difficulty since they had carried out a parallel move to clear positions near the main military airfield in Pallaly, 17 km (10 miles) north of the fort.

Pallaly and Vasavilan camps had come under artillery, mortar and rocket propelled grenade at

tacks from these rebel bunkers. “In the preliminary engagement, the terrorists fled and four of their people were killed”, he said. Six rebels and four soldiers were wounded, he added.

In the port town of Mannar, 76 km (48 miles) south of Jaffna Fort and a rebel infested area, military officials said security forces yesterday began operations against the separatists. They declined to give details. Residents and LTTE sources in Jaffna could not be reached for comment because the government had cut off telephone and telex links with the Peninsula after it imposed a fuel blockade last month.


Article extracted from this publication >>  February 20, 1987