YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon -- Cameroon's main opposition leader, supporters and other political prisoners were freed Saturday after the country's president brought an end of proceedings against them.
Cameroon Renaissance Movement leader Maurice Kamto was greeted by thousands of supporters upon release from the Yaounde prison. He looked calm, and declined comment.
Kamto and hundreds of his party members were arrested early this year after taking part in peaceful protests over alleged irregularities in the Oct. 7 election that saw longtime President Paul Biya easily win a seventh term. Official results said Kamto finished a distant second. He says he won.
The release came a day after Biya ordered the military court to halt the prosecutions as part of a national dialogue intended to restore peace in the West African nation, especially in the English-speaking regions where more than 2,000 people have been killed. Earlier this week Biya ordered the release of 333 separatists held for misdemeanors.
Kamto's lawyer Emmanuel Simh said while they were pleased with the decision, an earlier release would have been better to allow Kamto to participate in the national dialogue.
His spokesman Sosthene Medard Lipot said they will continue to press for Kamto to be officially handed his victory and recognized as Cameroon's president.
"Biya should have ordered the justice system that he manipulates to hasten Kamtos judgement instead of asking him to be freed," he said. "We wanted to prove in the military tribunal that the insurrection charges against our leader, just because he was fighting to be given his stolen victory, were mere fabrications by the Biya regime to jail him."
Among those who have gained freedom is 25-year old Sabastien Ngomfoue.
"Paul Biya has done the right thing," he said. "What he should do if he wants peace is to hand power over to Kamto whom he knows won the election."