Former Minister of Labour and Social Security Austin Liato along with 21 other inmates has been discharged from prison on compassionate grounds due to ill health.
Mr Liato, speaking from his hospital bed yesterday, said he is grateful to President Lungu for the gesture.
On June 2 this year, the Supreme Court upheld a two-year jail sentence with hard labour imposed on Mr Liato by the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court for possession of K2.1 million reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.
Minister of Home Affairs Davies Mwila yesterday ordered the release of Mr Liato and 21 other inmates in exercise of the powers vested in him under Section 31 (111A) of the amended Prison Act number 16 of 2004.
Zambia Prisons Service commissioner- general Percy Chato told journalists in Lusaka yesterday that the prisoners were discharged from prison yesterday.
“We have 22 inmates who have been discharged on compassionate grounds and among them is Mr Austin Liato,” Mr Chato said.
He said among those released are three males and a female prisoner from Lusaka, four from Kabwe Medium Prison, seven from Mumbwa State Prison and seven from Mwembeshi Maximum Security Prison.
“There is a provision in the amended Prison Act where we have a procedure to assess prisoners who are sick and if their condition is life threatening, we do recommend that they are released on compassionate grounds,” Mr Chato said.
He explained that the rule has no exception and caters for both convicted prisoners and those in remand prison after liaising with the courts of law.
“So, once the courts are agreeable, we do release those in remand so that they have access to medical services which we cannot provide in prison,” Mr Chato said.
He said Mr Liato, who has been hospitalised at University Teaching Hospital (UTH) since August 17 this year, was supposed to have served his jail sentence up to October 2016.
And speaking to journalists at UTH shortly after Mr Chato informed him about his release from prison, Mr Liato said he is humbled and thanked President Lungu for the “compassionate gesture.”
Meanwhile, 850 inmates at Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison in Kabwe have been transferred to Mwembeshi Maximum Security Prison.
Mr Chato said the move has been necessitated to decongest Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison following the commutation of death sentences of 332 inmates by President Lungu to life sentences in July this year.
“This has been done to decongest Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison in Kabwe. We had the commutation of death sentences to life sentences and it became necessary to move some prisoners to create room in the cells,” he said.
Mr Chato said inmates who have been transferred to Mwembeshi Maximum Security Prison are those on long-term sentences.
He said those from Mwembeshi Maximum Security Prison have been transferred to Kamfinsa State Prison