Sri Lanka frees 1,200 prisoners on Independence Day

Colombo, Feb 4 (IANS) Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Monday granted amnesty to 1,200 prisoners on the country's 65th Independence Day, Xinhua reported.

The prisoners were released at a ceremony held in Colombo's Welikada prison.

Those released were serving minor sentences and some of them had not been able to pay their fines.

The amnesty did not apply to those convicted for murder, drug offences, rape and armed robbery, officials said.

The move was welcomed by prison officials who have long complained of overcrowding in prisons across the country.

In a bid to overcome this problem, the government is planning to build new prisons in Matara, Tangalle and Jaffna.

Sri Lanka got its independence from British rule Feb 4, 1948.