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Myanmar frees 14,600, but few political prisoners

AP reports: Myanmar is releasing more than 14,600 prisoners under a clemency program that will include very few political prisoners.

Nyein Chan Naing / EPA

Female prisoners listen to the briefing of U Zaw Win, director general of the prison department, at the central Insein prison in Yangon, Myanmar on 17 May.

Prison Department Director General Zaw Win said most of the convicts, including 2,166 women, were being freed Tuesday from jails around the country.

The limited nature of the program — commuting death sentences to life imprisonment and cutting one year from convicts' prison terms — has drawn criticism from many who had expected more generous terms, similar to broader amnesties that have been announced in the past.

Nyein Chan Naing / EPA

Prisoners line up in front of the main gate of Insein central prison as security officers stand guard, in Yangon on 17 May.

Most of the country's political prisoners, both from the pro-democracy movement and from out-of-favor factions in the government, are serving long prison terms that will keep them locked up.

"My hopes are shattered. I thought my husband would be released in a general amnesty," said Moe Moe, 33, the wife of a former military intelligence officer sentenced in 2005 to 15 years in prison, after the measure was announced Monday night.

Asked how many political prisoners were among those to be released, Zaw Win repeated the government's position that the country has no political detainees. Continue reading.

Khin Maung Win / AP

Prisoners walk out of Insein Prison after they were released as the new government cut one year from their prison terms under a "general amnesty" on May 17.