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Myanmar begins release of political prisoners

Myanmar released over 130 political prisoners [AI report] Friday following announcement by the Burma State Media of a presidential pardon that will free a total of 651 prisoners. Among those released were Hitay Kywe and U Gambira, leaders of a 2007 revolt, Min Ko Naing, student leader of a 1988 protest, and former prime minister Khin Nyunt. In a statement [text] through his spokesperson, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon "commends the Myanmar leadership for this important development and hopes that all those released will now be able to freely contribute to the process of national reconciliation, as well as to the strengthening of democracy and the rule of law within Myanmar."

Myanmar released 200 prisoners in October after the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission was formed [JURIST reports] in September. Although happy with this start, Ban encouraged Myanmar at the time to release the rest of its political prisoners. Myanmar has been working toward mending relations with the international community since last March, when a newly elected civilian regime took over [BBC report] after 20 years of military rule. Myanmar has still not released all of the 2,202 political prisoners [JURIST report] the UN called for it to release in 2010.

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