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Samoa marks independence by releasing 35 prisoners

Samoa says it will release 35 prisoners as an act of forgiveness as it celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence.

Samoa's head of state made the announcement Friday as he spoke to thousands gathered at the parliamentary grounds in Apia.

Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi told the crowd that at times of celebration, it's important to believe in the powers of forgiveness and mercy. He didn't say who would be released or what their crimes were. Government officials could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.

Samoa is spending about $2 million on four days of festivities to celebrate its independence from New Zealand in 1962. Formerly known as Western Samoa, the South Pacific island nation is home to 194,000 people.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

APIA, Samoa (AP) — Samoa says it will release 35 prisoners as an act of forgiveness as it celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence.

Samoa's head of state made the announcement Friday as he spoke to thousands gathered at the parliamentary grounds in Apia.

Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi told the crowd that at times of celebration, it's important to believe in the powers of forgiveness and mercy. He didn't say who would be released or what their crimes were. Government officials could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.

Samoa is spending about $2 million on four days of festivities to celebrate its independence from New Zealand in 1962. Formerly known as Western Samoa, the South Pacific island nation is home to 194,000 people.