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Myanmar releases dozens of student activists from jail

A Myanmar court has released dozens of jailed student activists. Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's de facto leader, has pledged to release political prisoners and jailed activists.

The release comes a day after Aung San Suu Kyi

pledged to release activists and political prisoners

languishing in Myanmar's prisons.

It was one of the first acts of the

new government,

which had created a special counselor position for Suu Kyi,

giving her considerable sway over the country.

She is banned from becoming president under the junta-era constitution.

In all, about 70 students awaiting trial were released in the town of Tharrawaddy. They were arrested last March during student protests against education policy.

Rights groups estimate that before Friday more than 100 political prisoners were in Myanmar's jails, while at least 400 activists were in jail awaiting trial, including those released in Tharrawaddy.

The release was part of a broader amnesty granted ahead of the two-week New Year holiday, which begins Monday. About a dozen student activists remained in jail but are expected to be released later.

President Htin Kyaw, a close friend of Suu Kyi's, was planning to pardon more than 100 political prisoners, his office said.

The release of activists and political prisoners is personal for Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy, which swept to power in historic elections last November.

Suu Kyi had spent some 15 years under house arrest under the military junta, and more than one hundred members of parliament from her party spent time in prison as political prisoners.

The civilian-military government that replaced the junta in 2011 released hundreds of political prisoners but also jailed hundreds more.

cw/jil (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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