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Iran frees 80 prisoners in token gesture ahead of Rouhani's visit to the UN

DUBAI - Iranian authorities have pardoned 80 prisoners ahead of President Hassan Rouhani's visit to the United Nations in New York this week, Iranian media reported on Monday.
In a tentative sign that hardline policies are starting to soften following moderate conservative Rouhani's inauguration last month, authorities freed prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and at least 10 other prisoners last week.
On Monday, judiciary spokesman Mohseni Ejei told a news conference 80 prisoners had been pardoned, including some arrested over protests that followed the disputed re-election of former hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.
Ejei's comments suggest the total of 80 includes those freed last week in a move seen as intended to dampen Western criticism of Iran's human rights record ahead of Rouhani's address to the UN General Assembly.
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