The Iraqi government released more than 300 prisoners today. Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki released the prisoners to placate angry Sunni demonstrators, Reuters reported. Sunni leaders had also demanded the release of the detainees.
The prisoners were held under anti-terrorism law, although they had not actually been charged with anything. What's more, many people complain that the law unfairly targets Sunni Muslims, who are the minority sect in Iraq, Reuters said.
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The releases come as Prime Minister al-Maliki is facing increasing opposition. Anti-government protests have been a regular occurrence since December 23, mostly in Sunni areas, Agence France Presse reported. Many of the released prisoners were old men.
"I apologize in the name of the Iraqi state for any of you who were arrested and kept for this period of time, and it seems later that you are innocent," Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said in a statement, according to AFP."This has not only happened in Iraq, it happens in several countries. I ask all Iraqi security forces - do not quickly arrest but concentrate on real criminals who have committed crimes against Iraqis."