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Iraqi Government Frees Prisoners Amid Protests

Sunni demonstrators gather for an antigovernment protest in the central city of Samarra on January 11.
The Iraqi government has released nearly 200 prisoners in an apparent goodwill gesture to Sunni Muslims staging antigovernment demonstrations.

The releases come after tens of thousands of demonstrators, mainly in Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, staged protests against what demonstrators say is discrimination by the Shi'ite-led government.

Officials said 178 inmates were released on January 14, bringing to 335 the number of detainees freed in the past week.

Many of the detainees were released after a government review found that their jail terms had expired or insufficient evidence had been found to prosecute them.

Protesters have demanded the release of detainees arrested under an antiterrorism law many Sunnis say is an attempt by the authorities to target the religious minority religious.

Protesters have also called for the resignation of Iraq's Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP