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Azerbaijan pardons prisoners jailed after protests

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) – The president of Azerbaijan has pardoned 66 convicts, including nine youth activists arrested during a wave of anti-government protests last year inspired by the Arab Spring.

The text of the pardon was read on state television Friday evening.

Rights groups described the activists jailed after participating in a rally in April as political prisoners. The move appears to mark an effort by the government to demonstrate a softening in its authoritarian style of rule.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for jailed opposition figures to be released while visiting the former Soviet nation earlier this month.

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