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Sent: Thursday, February 27, 2003 12:30 AM
Subject: Kenyan Leader Frees 28 Death Row Inmates 

Kenyan Leader Frees 28 Death Row Inmates 
Associated Press

President Mwai Kibaki ordered the release of 28 death row inmates and commuted the death sentences of another 195 inmates to life in prison, following his campaign pledge to reform Kenya's prison system, a senior official said. 

The 28 prisoners were released Tuesday because they had already served between 15 and 20 years and "were of good conduct," Home Affairs Minister Moody Awori told The Associated Press. 

"This is a new government with new thinking," Awori said. "The government feels there is no reason and no justification to keep prisoners, particularly if they have reformed, in prison that long." 

Kibaki's government has also said it wants to see capital punishment abolished in the East African nation. The death penalty - by hanging - has not been carried out since 1987. 

Kenya's action recalled former Illinois Gov. George emptying his state's death row Jan. 11 when he commuted 167 condemned inmates' sentences. 

Murphy's decision was the broadest attack on the death penalty in the United States in decades. It came three years after he temporarily halted state executions to examine the system's fairness. 

Awori said he did not know how many prisoners there are on death row. The Kenya Human Rights Commission estimates there were 1,270 prisoners on death row in Kenya's notoriously overcrowded maximum security prisons as of last September. 

Anyone convicted of committing murder or "armed robbery with violence" can be sentenced to death in Kenya. This has meant that a judge could sentence a chicken thief to death if he used violence in committing the theft. There are no jury trials in Kenya. 

Prison officers in neighboring Uganda have also urged their government to abolish the death penalty