Bangkok, Thailand - Authorities in Thailand have freed 96 members of a Muslim minority sect after almost six months in detention.
The Ahmadiyah practitioners had fled from Pakistan, where the sect is persecuted, and all but two have been recognized as refugees by the United Nations. The group, which includes 34 children below the age of 12, were arrested in police raids in December.
Refugee rights groups say the Ahmadiyah members were freed Monday after the groups, in cooperation with Thailand's National Human Rights Commission, established a fund to raise money for their bail.
The groups say the 96 will remain at liberty in Bangkok until the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is able to resettle them in a third country.
The rights groups say this is the largest number of detainees ever to be released at one time in Thailand. They also say the effort to secure their release by members of civil society is unprecedented in the country.
The funding was arranged by the Thai Committee for Refugees, a private sector group that was founded last year.
The Ahmadiyah sect has also suffered discrimination in Indonesia. Three Indonesian provinces barred the public practice of the faith after a brutal attack by Muslim extremists that killed three members of the sect in February.