KINSHASA, Congo — Congolese authorities on Friday released Eddy Kapend, a man once sentenced to death for his role in the assassination of President Laurent Kabila nearly two decades ago.

Kapend left the central prison of Makala after a ceremony presided over by Justice Minister Bernard Takaishe Ngumbi.

The development comes just days after a presidential pardon was granted to all Congolese prisoners who had been sentenced to 20 years or more on political charges. Eleven of Kapend's co-defendants died in prison before the pardon was granted by President Felix Tshisekedi.

Kabila was assassinated in the presidential palace in the capital, Kinshasa, on Jan. 16, 2001 by one of his bodyguards, who was killed minutes later by security forces. Kapend, Kabila's cousin and aide-de-camp, was the accused ringleader in the assassination.

Two years later, a Kinshasa court sentenced 26 people to death in connection with the killing. Some 64 others were sentenced to terms ranging from six months to life.

Laurent Kabila's son Joseph took over after his father's assassination and served as president from 2001-2019.