Orissa will free 27 Maoists and their supporters to secure the release of Koraput MLA Jhina Hikaka and Italian tourist Paolo Basusco,Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told the assembly today.
Steps will be initiated to release eight Maoists and 15 members of the Naxal front Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh,Patnaik said. Four prisoners named by mediators Dandapani Mohanty and B D Sharma too will be released.
Mohanty and Sharma resumed talks with state government officials this evening. Sources said the Maoists are likely to release Hikaka and Basusco by late Thursday.
The Maoists took Basusco hostage along with fellow Italian Claudio Colangelo on March 14 in Kandhamal. They released Colangelo on humanitarian grounds on March 25. Hikaka was abducted in Laxmipur block of Koraput on March 23.
Patnaik,who postponed a visit to Chennai today,appealed to the Maoists to release Hikaka and Basusco unharmed. The names of the 27 prisoners would be announced tomorrow,he said.
The Andhra Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee of the CPI (Maoist),involved in the MLAs abduction,had declined the offer of mediation and set a deadline of Thursday for the government to meet their demands. On Monday,Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda had demanded a signed declaration accepting his demands,which included the release of his wife Subhasree Das and six others.
Last year,the government was forced to release Maoist ideologue Ganti Prasadam to secure the release of Malkangiri collector Vineel Krishna and junior engineer Pabitra Majhi.