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Iraq orders release of 11 women from prison

By The Associated Press

This article was published January 3, 2013 at 8:45 a.m.

— Iraqi authorities on Thursday ordered the release of 11 women facing criminal charges and pledged to transfer other women prisoners to jails in their home provinces, in a move to address a main demand during a wave of protests by the country’s Sunni minority against the Baghdad government.

The demonstrations erupted following the arrest of bodyguards assigned to Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi, one of the central government’s most senior Sunni officials. The protests tap into deeper Sunni feelings of perceived discrimination and unfair application of laws against their sect by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government.

Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, another high-ranking Sunni official, is living in exile in Turkey after he was handed multiple death sentences in absentia for allegedly running death squads, a charge he dismisses as politically motivated.

Justice Ministry spokesman Haider al-Saadi said the families of the imprisoned women can secure their release by paying bail. He added that 13 Sunni women convicted on criminal charges will be transferred from a Baghdad jail to prisons in their home provinces of Anbar, Salahuddin and Ninevah to serve out their sentences.

The detention of female prisoners has been a focus of the demonstrations, but it was not clear whether the decision to release some of them will satisfy the protesters.

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