BAGHDAD: Iraq has freed 4,000 prisoners since the beginning of 2013, Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said Thursday, in an apparent bid to placate protesters in Sunni areas of the country.
Demands of the protesters, who have been demonstrating for weeks, include the release of prisoners they say have been wrongfully detained, and the ouster of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Shahristani gave the figures at a ceremony marking the release on Thursday of 160 prisoners, and said that some freed prisoners can request compensation if they were not guilty of a crime.
Najeh Ali Shimmar, one of the 160 prisoners, told AFP he had been detained for almost 10 years without trial and is now looking forward to freedom.
"I am living a dream, and I won't believe this until I get outside the walls," said the 50-year-old father of two daughters.
Shimmar said he was arrested in October 2003 by US forces for violating a curfew in Madain, south of Baghdad.
"After two years, American forces handed me over to Iraqi forces," who accused him of carrying out three murders during a time when he could not have done so, as he was jailed, he said.
"Investigating officers did not take my case to the judge for eight years. Even the judge was shocked when he saw me after all this period, and decided to release me immediately," he said.
"I have been the target of a major injustice."
Commenting on similar cases, Shahristani said that the "judiciary is now cooperating with us to end the cases and is easing procedures."