FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — A former leader of a militia accused of torturing and mutilating civilians during Sierra Leone's civil war has been granted provisional release and will serve out the remainder of his term in his community, according to the United Nations-backed special court that convicted him.
Moinina Fofana was convicted in 2007 of war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, cruel treatment, pillage and collective punishment. He ultimately received a 15-year sentence and was being held in Rwanda's Mpanga Prison.
His transfer to Sierra Leone on Thursday makes him the first person convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Special Court for Sierra Leone to be released from prison, the court statement said. His term ends in May 2018, and he will serve the rest of his time under "strict conditions and stringent monitoring" in his community in Bo, Sierra Leone's second-largest city, according to a statement from the court.
"Although Fofana will reside in Bo, he must still complete his sentence for his convictions for war crimes and crimes against humanity that he committed against the people of Sierra Leone," said court registrar Binta Mansaray.
He could be arrested again if he fails to comply with court-ordered conditions which require him to issue a public apology and refrain committing crimes and interfering with witnesses.
Sierra Leone's brutal civil war lasted from 1991-2002. Fofana's government-allied militia, the Civil Defense Forces, used a network of tribal-based hunters to fight various rebel groups.
The charges against members of the Civil Defense Forces, including Fofana, were controversial, as many argued the militia should be praised as patriots.
Sierra Leone is one of the three West African countries hit hardest by the Ebola epidemic, and Fofana had been given the option to stay in Rwanda until the country was declared Ebola-free. He opted instead to return to Bo, the court said.