CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) -- A judge has agreed to release 24 illegal immigrants who were being held as material witnesses in the case against a former kosher slaughterhouse manager.

The former Agriprocessors, Inc., employees were supposed to be deported after serving a sentence following their arrest in a massive immigration raid in May 2008. But deportation was deferred so they could testify in the trial of former plant manager Sholom Rubashkin.

Rubashkin was convicted of 86 counts of financial fraud, and the immigration charges were dropped at prosecutors' request.

The former workers have been authorized work, but it's unclear whether they will be deported.

Prosecutors will be able to use the workers' testimony when Rubashkin is sentenced.

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Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazetteonline.com/

Copyright 2009 The AP.

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