BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbaeva has signed an amnesty decree to release thousands of prisoners in connection with the upcoming 20th anniversary of Kyrgyzstan's independence, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.
The decree releases inmates sentenced for minor crimes.
Inmates in juvenile penitentiaries, women older than 55, men older than 60, pregnant and handicapped convicts, and prisoners who have paid financial debts to the state are eligible for early release.
The presidential office told RFE/RL that the decree covers a total of 3,470 prisoners from a total prison population of 14,435.
Convicts sentenced for serious crimes, those involved in organized criminal groups, and those who have been sentenced more than once or who have violated regulations while in prison are not eligible for release.
Kyrgyzstan declared its independence from the Soviet Union on August 31, 1991, becoming the first Soviet republic in Central Asia to do so.
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