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Ortega says he will free another 50 political prisoners

(Reuters) – Nicaragua’s government said on Thursday it was releasing another 50 political prisoners, amid opposition threats to ramp up demonstrations if President Daniel Ortega does not honor a pledge to free hundreds of people detained for opposing him.

Prisoner Franklin Perez, 29, hugs his son and his mother Lidia in his home after he was released to house arrest, in Managua, Nicaragua, Friday, April 5, 2019. Perez had been jailed for protesting against President Daniel Ortega’s government. (AP Photo/Alfredo Zuniga)

“Orders have been issued for 50 people who had been detained for committing crimes against collective security and public peace,” the interior ministry said in a statement.

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The Ortega government has arrested hundreds of people during violent clashes that first erupted in April 2018, when the veteran president tried to cut welfare benefits.

The protests soon spiraled into a broader resistance movement and became the sharpest test of Ortega’s authority since the former Marxist guerrilla returned to office in 2007.

The release order on Thursday follows the freeing of around 100 prisoners last week. [nL2N22X004] The government has said it will by June 18 free all remaining political prisoners, who the opposition says number around 600.

Ortega has called the anti-government protests an illegal plot by his adversaries to oust him, while critics have accused him of human rights abuses in the crackdown on dissent.

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Since the protests against Ortega’s government began last year, more than 324 people have died and another 60,000 have gone into exile, according to human rights organizations.

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