June 17, 2010 / 1:28 PM / 9 years ago

Libya to free prisoners from Niger: prison official

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya’s government is to allow nearly 300 prisoners from the neighbouring country of Niger to return home, a senior Libyan prison official said on Thursday.

Libya has come under criticism from some international organisations who say it hands out harsh treatment to citizens of other African countries who end up in detention there, either as prisoners or illegal immigrants.

Oil producer Libya earlier this month signed an agreement on judicial cooperation with the military junta running Niger, which is a major exporter of uranium.

The Libyan prison official said of the 276 prisoners to be handed over to the Niger authorities later on Thursday, 198 were convicted criminals and 78 were awaiting trial.

He said Niger’s justice minister was in the Libyan capital to receive the freed prisoners. “They will be handed over to the minister today,” the prison official told reporters.

Libya is holding 12 Niger citizens who are awaiting execution. The prison official did not say what would happen to them but he said all those being freed on Thursday were held over minor offences such as theft and drug-taking.

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