Tajikistan has begun releasing the first group of prisoners under a mass amnesty affecting some 16,000 people.
Tajik lawmakers earlier this month approved an amnesty law proposed by President Emomali Rahmon to mark the former Soviet republic's 30th anniversary of independence on September 9.
The amnesty affects mainly women, individuals younger than 18 and older than 55, disabled persons, inmates with serious illnesses, people with state awards, war veterans, and foreign nationals.
The amnesty doesn't affect political prisoners in the tightly controlled country.
Around 10,000 convicts will be released from penitentiaries of different security levels and the prison terms of another 6,000 inmates will be shortened.
RFE/RL reported on September 22 that the first group of 605 inmates were release the previous day from Yavan prison and dozens more from the Nurek women's prison and reunited with relatives.
Prison officials in Bokhtar, the capital of Khatlon Province, said they had released prisoners as well, but the exact number wasn't clear.
The Ministry of Justice's Penitentiary Department told RFE/RL that the release of prisoners from the Yakum Sovetsky prison in the capital, Dushanbe, will begin in the coming days.
Individuals sentenced to life in prison, those who committed a crime after receiving a previous pardon, people who committed crimes while serving prison sentences, and inmates who systematically violated prison order regulations will not be included in the amnesty.
According to the U.S. State Department's annual human rights report, detainees and inmates in Tajikistan have described harsh and life-threatening conditions in the country's prisons, including extreme overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.