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Thailand: Jailed ex-PM Thaksin to be released, minister says

Thaksin was arrested last August upon his return home following 15 years in self-imposed exile

Thaksin was arrested last August upon his return home following 15 years in self-imposed exile

Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will be allowed to walk free, after being locked up over graft charges since returning home from exile last August.

Thailand's justice minister said on Tuesday that he would be freed, while local media reported Thaksin has been granted parole.

"Around 930 prisoners, including [Thaksin] will have their sentence suspended. He is in the group where they are in critical condition or aged over 70. He will be released after six months automatically," Justice Minister Tawee Sodsong told reporters at the government house.

Under Thai law, Thaksin could be released after serving six months of his sentence on February 18. However, that is provided he does not get separately charged.

Why is Thaksin in jail?

Former Prime Minister and Pheu Thai party founder Thaksin was ousted in a coup 17 years ago, driving him into self-imposed exile.

He returned to Thailand for the first time in 15 years in August, only to be quickly arrested and taken to the Supreme Court, which sentenced him to eight years on charges of graft and abuse of power.

His sentence, which was later reduced to one year, is said to be based on past convictions he had obtained in absentia.

On his first night in jail, Thaksin was hospitalized after feeling unwell. He has since spent his his sentence in a military hospital.

The 74-year-old then submitted a request for a royal pardon shortly after his arrest.

Thaksin had formed the Thai Rak Thai party in 1998, which later came to be known as the now-ruling Pheu Thai party.

Speculations around the timing of his choice to return from exile have risen, with some suspecting that the Pheu Thai party had made a deal with other parties involving a pardon for him.

Srettha Thavisin, the country's newly-appointed prime minister, is now considered the face of Thaksin's political movement.

rmt/msh (AFP, Reuters)