DUSHANBE - Tajikistan plans to release 15,000 prisoners, including some Islamist rebels who fought against the government in the late 1990s, in an amnesty to mark the 20th anniversary of the Central Asian state's independence.
The biggest amnesty in Tajikistan's history will set free approximately half of the country's prison population and marks a significant policy reversal after more than 150 people were jailed in 2010 for membership of banned religious groups.
Official state news agency Khovar announced the amnesty proposal on its website, www.khovar.tj, on Wednesday. Ex-Soviet Tajikistan will celebrate 20 years of independence in September.
Tajikistan, a mountainous country of 7.5 million people bordering Afghanistan and China, is the poorest of the 15 former Soviet republics and relies heavily on remittances from migrant workers.