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Nicaragua government releases 50 more political prisoners

Anti-government protesters, some wearing masks to hide their identity from authorities, protest on the grounds of the Cathedral after their march was blocked by police in Managua, Nicaragua, Sunday, May 26, 2019. The banner features Eddy Montes Praslin, a Nicaraguan-American dual national who was a staunch opponent of the government of President Daniel Ortega and who died in a prison disturbance in Nicaragua. (AP Photo/Alfredo Zuniga)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Nicaragua’s government released 50 prisoners detained during protests from jail to house arrest Thursday as an agreed-upon deadline to release all such inmates approaches.

A government statement said that all were held on charges of crimes against security and public peace, terms it uses for those involved in anti-government protests that swept the nation over the past year.

The government of President Daniel Ortega has made several similar releases in recent months, but the opposition Civic Alliance pulled out of talks with the government earlier this month because not all of the prisoners had been released.

The government has committed to releasing all detained protesters by June 18 and has said 142 remain imprisoned, though the Civic Alliance had said on Wednesday that 233 political prisoners were still behind bars.

The government announced later it was releasing 207 other prisoners for Mother’s Day, which was celebrated Thursday. The Civic Alliance said two of them were believed to be political prisoners while the others had been held on charges unrelated to the protests.

Some opposition members called for a march in memory of people who died during an official crackdown on a Mother’s Day march last year Thursday, but a heavy police presence appeared to prevent it from materializing.

Police were also out in force around Managua’s cathedral, where a group of people who lost relatives during the protests had scheduled a memorial Mass.

Members of the April Mothers Association carried photographs of their loved ones lost in the fighting. The Mass was in remembrance to those killed in the previous year’s Mother’s Day march.

An international fact-finding group last year said six protesters died during last year’s Mother’s Day protests. It said two people believed to be Sandinista activists also died under unclear circumstances.

At least 100 mostly masked youth were outside the cathedral, but on its grounds chanting against the government and firing homemade fireworks at police outside the perimeter. An AP journalist saw no violence at the gathering.

There were local media reports that police had similarly surrounded another gathering at the cathedral in the city of Matagalpa about two hours north of Managua.

The lnewspaper La Prensa, a strong critic of Ortega’s government, also reported that about 30 police officers had stationed themselves in the streets around the newspaper offices.

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