'Poison plot' accused released from prison in Benin

Six people pardoned by Benin's president over an alleged poisoning plot against him have been released from custody, their families and a lawyer said on Tuesday.

Thomas Boni Yayi announced on Sunday that the six were cleared of any involvement. He also pardoned a prominent businessman, Patrice Talon, who had been fighting extradition from France.

The court of appeal in Benin's commercial hub, Cotonou, on Monday announced the release of the six, who were arrested in 2012 and last year, and ordered their personal effects to be returned, one of their lawyers, Charles Badou, told AFP.

Those held include Boni Yayi's personal physician, Mama Cisse, one of the president's nieces and a former business and industry minister in the government.

Badou said all of those held "have returned home and were free to move unrestricted".

Boni Yayi's niece, Zouberath Kora Seke, told reporters at the prison gates: "I am very happy but also disgusted because everything that I am supposed to have done is not right."

Her lawyer, Mohamed Barret, condemned what he claimed was political interference in the judicial process.

Talon was a one-time ally of Boni Yayi until he was accused in October 2012 of masterminding the alleged plot by switching the president's medicine for poison.

He was already facing corruption accusations before his flight to France.

In December last year, a French appeal court refused to grant his extradition, ruling that he could not be sent home because it was not clear that an arrest warrant for him was still valid.

Boni Yayi on Sunday ordered the release of those held in custody in Benin and called on the country to "turn the page once and for all" on the matter.