Middle East

Hundreds of prisoners released in Iraq

Iraqi prisoners during a release ceremony
Image caption Over 300 prisoners have been released in the last week.

Iraqi authorities have freed 175 prisoners, in an apparent concession to Sunni protesters demonstrating against the Shia-led government.

Deputy PM Hussein Shahristani said a total of 335 prisoners had been released in the last week.

He apologised "on behalf of the Iraqi state" to those who had suffered prolonged detention.

Across the country, tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims have been complaining of alleged discrimination.

Mr Shahristani heads a committee formed by Prime Minster Nouri Maliki to look into the demands of the protesters.

Yellow uniforms

There have been three weeks of demonstrations, in predominantly Sunni provinces of Iraq.

The release of detainees held without charges has been one of the main demands.

Dozens of prisoners in yellow Iraqi prison uniforms were surrounded by guards during a release ceremony at a ceremony at a Baghdad prison.

AP news agency reported that those being freed were handed Korans and given sweets as television cameras rolled.

Mr Shahristani admitted that the prisoners had been held unlawfully because of "bureaucratic procedures in different government departments".

No details were given about the inmates or their alleged crimes, but Reuters reported the detainees' jail terms had been dismissed because of a lack of evidence.