Page last updated at 23:45 GMT, Friday, 20 June 2008 00:45 UK

Most Tibet protesters 'now freed'

A police officer stands guard in Lhasa, Tibet, 20/06
Lhasa is gearing up for the Olympic torch relay

More than 1,000 people detained after protests in Tibet earlier this year have now been freed, Chinese media say.

The state-run Xinhua news agency quoted a senior official saying 116 people remained in custody awaiting trial over the unrest.

The announcement came a day before the Olympic torch relay was due to reach Tibet's main city, Lhasa.

In March, Buddhist monks led anti- Beijing rallies in Lhasa which grew into widespread unrest among Tibetans.

China says rioters killed at least 19 people in the unrest, but Tibetan exiles say security forces killed dozens of people.

The announcement on the detainees came a day after human rights group Amnesty International called on Beijing to account for those who were still in jail after the unrest.

Xinhua quoted Palma Trily, vice-governor of the Beijing-backed Tibetan government, as saying 1,157 people had now been freed after being charged with minor offences connected with the unrest.

Tibet police detained and arrested 953 people after the riot, while 362 others surrendered to police, according to the vice-governor.

He said 12 people had been sentenced for crimes related to the unrest, bring to 42 the total number of people who have been punished.

The Xinhua report said the 42 were convicted of offences including arson, robbery and "gathering to assault state organs".

Torch protests

Unrest in Tibetan communities began in Lhasa on 10 March before snowballing into the most widespread protests in 20 years.

After several days of unrest and rioting, Chinese security forces wrested back control of the area.

But pro-Tibetan protesters threw China's global Olympic torch relay into disarray as it passed through several cities, including London, Paris and San Francisco.

The Olympic torch reaches Lhasa on Saturday on the latest leg of its tour around China.

Chinese security forces have been patrolling in the main square of Lhasa in the run-up to the torch's arrival.

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