Maurice Kamto, the main rival of Cameroon President Paul Biya, walked free from prison after insurrection charges were dropped in what government said was a gesture of national reconciliation.
After a hearing at a military tribunal, Kamto was released to a crowd of cheering supporters in Yaounde.
Biya, who governed Cameroon for nearly four decades, is seeking to calm unrest stoked by a disputed presidential election last year and a separatist insurrection that cost close to 2 000 lives over the past two years.
Kamto, head of the opposition Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC), finished runner-up to Biya in last October’s presidential election but denounced the result as fraudulent.
He was arrested in January after leading protests which security forces dispersed with live bullets and faced charges his lawyers said could carry the death penalty.
Government said on Friday some MRC members would be freed, saying Biya was determined “to relentlessly pursue his efforts to find ways to peacefully resolve the disagreements confronting our country”.
Besides Kamto, about 100 other CRM members were released, lawyers said.
“This release is a good thing. It shows good faith,” Felix Agbor, a Kamto lawyers, told Reuters. “I think it’s necessary to pardon others already convicted.”