Mogadishu, Somalia — President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed pardoned over 200 convicts some of whom were Al Shabaab agents including foreign fighters, a day before the new Somali parliament is sworn in, Garowe Online reports.
The former Transitional Federal Government (TFG) President Sharif released the 219 convicts on the holy day for Muslims Eid. The Minister for Religious Affairs Ahmed Hassan Gaboobe stated that these people were pardoned to commemorate the holy day of celebration.
"We released the inmates in celebration of Eid. These convicts were jailed after being convicted of minor crimes," said Minister Gaboobe.
However sources close to Garowe Online said that many of the released convicts were not convicted of minor crimes but had been convicted of being Al Shabaab agents and committing violent crimes in Mogadishu.
Minister Gaboobe stated that there were 7 convicted foreign Al Shabaab fighters that were released from Mogadishu's Gaal Shire prison after being pardoned by Sheikh Sharif. Those foreign convicts according to unconfirmed reports were sentenced to death by a Mogadishu court.
Although in Islamic culture it is common to forgive and pardon those convicted of minor charges on Eid, some Mogadishu residents were worried that convicted agents of the Al Shabaab terror network could be lurking the streets of Mogadishu.
"I'm worried that people who were contributing or associated with committing acts of terror on Mogadishu and Somali residents will be free to roam the streets," said Mohamed Amiin who in 2010 fled Al Shabaab in Marko and moved to Mogadishu.
It is unclear if the TFG President's pardon mandate extends to the release of foreign fighters convicted of terrorism charges.
Some of the convicts that were released had been convicted of minor crimes and the pardoned included 8 women.
Despite setbacks Somali shifts towards a permanent government in the next couple of days with the parliamentary meeting scheduled for Monday a new Speaker of Parliament will be decided.
The much awaited Somali Presidential elections date will be decided by parliament following a vote of Speaker.