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More than 590 prisoners freed in Iraq

Written by: Staff

BAGHDAD, June 7: About 594 prisoners were released in Iraq today, state television reported, a day after new Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said a total of 2,500 would be freed to help foster national reconciliation.

More than 100 of them were freed in the capital, a Reuters reporter said.

About 110 detainees had been gathered at the capital's main bus station, where prisoners are taken before they are set free, he said from the scene. They were later released.

State television, citing the Justice Ministry, said 594 had been freed across the country. Officials at the ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

Maliki, who has pledged to heal sectarian wounds and crush a Sunni Arab insurgency, said in a televised statement on Tuesday that the prisoner release would free those who had no clear evidence against them or had been detained mistakenly.

Initially, 500 people would be released on Wednesday, he said, but did not give details. Many of those in prison are from ousted President Saddam Hussein's once dominant Sunni community.

Maliki had cited the release of those imprisoned without just cause as one of his priorities when his cabinet took office in May. Such detentions, by Iraqi and U.S. security forces, have been a major source of popular discontent with government.

A critical U.N. human rights report last month said there were 28,700 detainees in Iraq, including 5,000 held by the Interior Ministry even though it should only detain people for short periods of time.


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