Iraq releases hundreds of prisoners


An Iraqi soldier stands guard at a detention facility in Baghdad before the release on April 29, 2010 of about 120 prisoners, according to Iraqi officials.



Iraqi authorities today released 175 prisoners in response to weeks of protests by tens of thousands of frustrated Sunni Muslims, who say they are discriminated against by the country's Shiite-led government. Among their demands is the release of prisoners, reported BBC News

Today's move brings to 335 the number of inmates released over the past week, according to deputy prime minister Hussein Shahristani, who has been tasked with addressing protesters' demands, said BBC

The prisoners were being held under anti-terrorism laws, reported Reuters, interpreting today's move as a "goodwill gesture to try to appease Sunni Muslim demonstrators." 

Sharistani does appear to be trying to make amends. 

"In name of the Iraqi State, I apologize to those who were arrested and jailed and were later proven to be innocent," he said today, according to Reuters.

The Associated Press described today's release as a full-blown "ceremony," adding:

Those being freed were handed boxed Qurans and showered with candy as television cameras rolled. 

Sunnis have been protesting heavily for the past three weeks. Aside from the release of prisoners, they demand an amnesty law, the resignation of the ruling Shiite Prime Minister, and want a special government operation to find all the former members of Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party, said Reuters