COVID-19: Botswana pardons & releases 149 prisoners

President Mokgweetsi Masisi approved the pardons that were announced by the prison service on Thursday.

FILE: Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi speaks after taking the oath as the 5th President at the National Assembly in Gaborone on 1 April 2018. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Botswana has pardoned and released 149 prisoners to ease congestion in prisons during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi approved the pardons that were announced by the prison service on Thursday. All pardoned prisoners would be subjected to COVID-19 clearance procedures before their release.

Botswana said 53 of the 149 pardoned prisoners were on extramural labour while 96 were incarcerated.

The country’s prison service said 20 of those released from prison were foreign nationals and they would be released when immigration procedures to send them home were concluded.

What the service didn’t say, however, was what categories of crimes were pardoned and how long the prisoners had left on their sentences.

The country has 15 confirmed COVID-19 cases and it declared a state of emergency and a lockdown.