Tens of thousands of protesters rallied across Iraq on Friday, charging that Sunni Muslims had been disenfranchised under the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and pressing for detainees to be freed.

Protests have raged for weeks and continued even after the Iraqi justice ministry freed nearly a dozen female prisoners and said it would transfer others to jails closer to their homes. The unrest has spread from Anbar province, where infuriated protesters have blocked a key highway, to other Sunni strongholds across northern and western Iraq.

“How much longer will our children stay in prisons for no other reason than being Sunni,” a man who gave his name as Abu Abdullah told Agence France-Presse at one demonstration in Baghdad, where protesters hoisted banners calling for anti-terror laws to be repealed.

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