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Sudan Starts Freeing 57 Rebels After Peace Pact

Reuters (2/24/10)

The move is the first concrete step in a rapprochement between the government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) group since a deal that promised government posts to the rebels was ratified in Qatar on Tuesday.

Scores of people gathered outside Kober prison in Khartoum North, while inside the prison Sudan's Justice Minister Abdel Basit Sabderat told reporters 57 men would be released, upping an earlier government promise to release 30 of those detained.

More than 100 men were imprisoned for participating in the JEM attack on Khartoum in 2008.

The justice minister said those to be released included 50 who were on death row.

One of the first to be freed was Adam Abdullah al-Nur, who cried as he was swamped by supporters hugging him and chanting.

"My only concern is to give the people of Darfur their rights, to give any old woman or child their rights," he said.

Reuters witnesses outside the jail saw about five released prisoners thronged by a crowd that chanted slogans in support of the rebel group, with more seen talking to their lawyers inside the prison grounds.

Armed guards watched the crowd unfurl banners backing the attack in which JEM fighters drove hundreds of kilometers (miles) across desert and scrubland to a few kilometers from the presidential palace before government troops stopped them.

"This is the first time that JEM is acting in front of the people, in front of the people's eyes," said a student who declined to give his name. "This is a big day. My brother is in prison, He is a soldier of JEM. I am a supporter of JEM."

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