Colonel Assimi Goita grants pardon with full remission of sentences to 49 Ivorians convicted of "attack and conspiracy against the government," says spokesperson of interim government.

Junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita
Junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita "fully revoked the sentences of the 49 Ivorians," says government spokesperson. (Reuters Archive)

Mali's junta leader has pardoned all 49 Ivorian soldiers whose arrest in July triggered a bitter diplomatic row, a government spokesperson said, just a week after the courts sentenced them.

"Colonel Assimi Goita... granted a pardon with full remission of sentences to the 49 Ivorians convicted by the Malian justice system," said a statement from government spokesperson Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga on Friday, the minister for territorial administration and decentralisation.

The soldiers were arrested at the airport in Mali's capital Bamako in July.

Mali's ruling junta said the soldiers were acting as mercenaries, while Ivory Coast said they were part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

The soldiers' arrest sparked a diplomatic dispute between Mali and neighbouring Ivory Coast, as well as widespread condemnation from regional allies.

READ MORE: Mali hands 46 Ivorian troops 20 years in jail for plotting against Bamako

Brief trial

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

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

The court proceedings came in the run-up to 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 of seeking to undermine state security, public prosecutor Ladji Sara said in a statement at the time.

READ MORE: Ivory Coast seeks West Africa bloc's help over detained troops in Mali

Source: TRTWorld and agencies