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13 Sep, 2008 02:13

Prisoners freed during Ossetian war voluntarily return

31 prisoners released by wardens at Tskhinval’s prison, when Georgia assaulted the South Ossetian capital, have voluntarily returned to their cells. The Ministry of Justice is considering reducing their sentences, or even granting amnesty to the conscient

When Georgian artillery rained down on the prison, it became clear that prisoners' lives were at risk with the city facing a fierce battle. Wardens took the daring decision to open the gates and released all the inmates.

Some took up arms and defended the city and others went to protect their families. They all promised to return, but the head warden wasn't holding his breath.

“I've worked in the judicial system for 25 years and I've witnessed prison breaks but I've never seen prisoners returning of their own will. It was such a surprise that any of them came back. They kept their word,” said warden Valentin Gobozov.

The prisoners were released into a world of chaos.

“I was given a gun, grenades, and ammunition by locals. I felt it was my duty to defend my native city,” said Inal, one of the 31 who came back after the fighting ended.

Another inmate said he chose not to flee because he feared a penalty on top of the seven years he still has to serve from a ten year sentence. On the other hand, if he returned his honesty might be rewarded. “I had no desire to hide or flee the region because I had faith that I would be rewarded for defending my city at time of war,” said Kazbek.

Luckily for Kazbek, the South Ossetian Justice Minister seems to share his point of view.

“After a thorough investigation we will consider reducing sentences, or even granting amnesties to any prisoner who defended South Ossetia during the war,” said Minister Mirab Chegoyev.

Half of the inmates are still at large, and these are likely to face extended sentences if they are caught.