Burundi today freed 740 prisoners, most of whom had been imprisoned after taking part in protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza in 2015, the government announced.
The detainees were released from Bujumbura's Mpimba prison -- the country's largest -- after a ceremony presided over by Justice Minister Aimee-Laurentine Kanyana, with several western ambassadors in attendance.
Their release came in the wake of a presidential pardon at the turn of last year.
Of the 740 released, 450 had been "sentenced for taking part in the insurrectional movement of 2015," Kanyana said, using the official term for protests that ran from late April to mid-June 2015.
A western diplomat who saw the ceremony said, "We heard that there would be many prisoners of opinion who were freed."
"It's good news if that's the case," said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We will check before speaking on an official basis."
In 2015, the authorities released a number of opposition candidates, again in the context of a presidential pardon, but grassroots groups said the tally of those released was smaller than announced, and was followed by a wave of re-arrests.
The minister today warned those released against committing "any re-offence," saying this would lead to life imprisonment.
The governor of Mpimba prison said the release would help to ease conditions in the overcrowded facility.
Around 2,800 people, most of them convicted for common-law offences, have been released since the start of 2018 under the latest pardon.
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