Albania's Communist government announced Saturday it is freeing 202 political prisoners and attempted defectors held at jails around the Balkan nation, the state news agency ATA reported.
The decision was made at a meeting of parliament's presidium headed by President Ramiz Alia.It said the presidium's next meeting will examine the possibility of pardoning "all other persons sentenced for political offenses, agitation, propaganda and defection."
The government has not said how many people have been imprisoned for political offenses during the Communist Party's 46-year grip on power. Western human rights organizations have no exact statistics, due to the decades of tight control of information by Europe's most orthodox Communist state.
The ATA dispatch said 393 prisoners, including the 202 in the latest announcement, have been pardoned by decrees since June.
A spokesman of the Democratic Party, a fledgling alternative group, welcomed the pardons and said the party would press for more.
"Our request remains the release of all political prisoners," he said.
Last month, President Alia permitted formation of the opposition party and pledged to remove the Communist Party's guaranteed leading political role from the constitution.
Since the government began relaxing its controls, Albanians have begun trying to flee the country.
More than 5,000 ethnic Greeks escaped across mountain passes to Greece last week.