Sri Lanka frees more than 1,000 prisoners in Christmas amnesty

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has granted an amnesty to more than 1,000 convicts and released them from jails across the country to mark Christmas, an official has said.

Among the 1,004 freed on Monday were Sri Lankans jailed for not being able to pay outstanding fines, Prison Commissioner Gamini Dissanayake said.

Sri Lanka is majority Buddhist, and a similar number of convicts were freed in May to mark the holiday of Vesak, which celebrates the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.

The latest pardon came after police arrested nearly 15,000 people during a weeklong military-backed anti-narcotics drive that was halted on the eve of Christmas.

A police statement said 13,666 suspects were arrested while nearly 1,100 addicts were detained and sent for compulsory rehabilitation at a military-run facility.

The island nation’s jails are chronically overcrowded.

As of Friday, there were nearly 30,000 inmates in facilities designed to hold 11,000, according to official data.

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