Sri Lanka releases 572 prisoners to mark pope visit

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 14, 2015 9:22 AM

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka released nearly 600 prisoners and reduced jail terms for others on Wednesday to mark Pope Francis' visit and his proclamation of the country's first saint.

"We released 572 prisoners who were arrested for minor offences," Prison Commission General Chandraratne Pallegama told Reuters, adding that some were older than 75. The sentences of an unspecified number of other prisoners were reduced.

"All this was done one to mark the visit by His Holiness."

The former British colony usually releases prisoners arrested for minor offences on the island nation's independence day on Feb. 4.

The pope earlier in the day held an outdoor Mass before more than half a million people to make Joseph Vaz, a 17th century missionary, the Indian Island nation's first saint.

(Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Philip Pullella and Alison Williams)