Nicaragua releases more prisoners after opposition demand


Managua (AFP)

Nicaragua on Friday released 50 prisoners held for taking part in anti-government protests, authorities said, giving a fresh impetus to peace talks on ending the country's long running political crisis.

Inmates were taken from La Modelo maximum security prison outside Managua aboard buses. Waiting family members said it was difficult to identify who was inside, or how many.

The interior ministry said in a statement that 50 people had been released into house arrest.

A list of those released did not contain any key opposition figures.

The opposition alliance, which is demanding President Daniel Ortega hold early elections, had made a return to stalled talks conditional on the release of prisoners.

A first batch of around 100 were freed on February 27 at the start of the latest round of peace talks with a delegation from Ortega's leftist government.

Those talks were suspended for several days over opposition demands that others be released. They resumed on Thursday following government assurances of coming releases.

More than 700 people were detained during a deadly crackdown on protests that began last April and quickly grew into broad opposition to Ortega's iron-fisted rule.

The opposition accuses Ortega, a 73-year-old former Sandinista rebel leader, of running a corrupt, cruel and incompetent leftist dictatorship in the poor Central American country.

The crackdown left at least 325 people dead between April and October, while thousands of Nicaraguans fled the unrest.