Malawi protest prisoners escape over presidential pardon

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At least five inmates in Malawi have escaped from a prison in the southern city of Zomba in protest against the pardoning of two prisoners by President Joyce Banda.

Three have since been recaptured, a police spokesman has told the BBC.

Of the two convicts pardoned, one was doing time for sex crimes and another for murder, both serious crimes in Malawi and ineligible for pardon.

The five escapees had been convicted of sex crimes and armed robbery.

Prison and police officers are looking for the two who remain on the run.

As part of commemorations marking 48 years of independence from the United Kingdom, President Joyce Banda pardoned 377 prisoners on Friday.

But she said she rejected 11 recommended names because they were doing time for sex crimes.

In Malawi, although presidential pardons are a tradition on Independence Day or Christmas Day, only prisoners doing time for lesser crimes, who have completed two-thirds of their sentences and have shown good behaviour, are accorded the privilege, says the BBC's Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre.

If an inmate is terminally ill, they may be considered for pardon, he says.

So when the president pardoned 34 convicts from the central prison in the former colonial capital, including a sex crimes convict and a murderer, the other inmates rioted and forcibly took the two back to their cells, our correspondent adds.

The guards then intervened and freed the pair after a scuffle with the inmates before about 30 prisoners tried to escape on Monday morning.

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