COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has pardoned over 400 prisoners held for minor offences to minimise congestion in local jails, officials said on Tuesday.
According to the president's office, Rajapaksa has ordered the release of 444 prisoners, including 18 female inmates.
The Prisons officials said that all the inmates were being held for minor offences or were those unable to pay fines ordered by courts.
They said that the decision was taken to minimise congestion in local prisons.
The highest number of 83 prisoners who were granted the pardon were from the main Welikada prison in Colombo followed by 54 from Pallekele prison in the central district of Kandy.
The decision to pardon those jailed for minor offences was taken in March when a prison riot claimed the life of an inmate at the north central jail in Anuradhapura district during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prisons officials said that the local jails are extremely over crowded with 3 times the capacity.
Currently, there are over 33,000 prisoners in the country's jails, which have the capacity for 11,762 inmates.