Mali’s junta leader pardoned the 49 Ivorian soldiers whose arrest in July sparked a bitter diplomatic row on Friday, a government spokesman said, just a week after they were sentenced by courts.

“Colonel Assimi Goita… granted a pardon with full remission of sentences to the 49 Ivorians convicted by Mali’s justice system,” said a statement from government spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, minister of territorial administration and decentralization.

On December 30, 46 soldiers were sentenced to 20 years in prison, while three women out of the original 49, who had already been released in early September, received death sentences.

The trial began in the capital Bamako on December 29 and concluded the following day.

The court proceedings came before a January 1 deadline set by West African leaders for Mali to release the soldiers or face sanctions.

The Ivorians were convicted of an “attack and conspiracy against the government” and for trying to undermine state security, prosecutor Ladji Sara said in a statement at the time.


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