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Last updated: 21 October, 2004 - Published 21:06 GMT
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To free or not to free Grenada 17?
US forces in Grenada in 1983
The coup led to the US invasion of the island in 1983
Twenty-one years after the murder of Grenada's first left-wing prime minister, Maurice Bishop and most of his cabinet, Grenadians are still divided as to the future of those convicted of the murders.

Earlier this week, around 60 family members and friends Bishop and his followers this week marked the anniversary of the day they were believed to have been murdered, by placing wreaths and candles on the site where they believe the victims’ were gunned down.

Over two decades after those events - the future of Mr Bishop's deputy Bernard Coard and the other 16 people serving life sentences for the murders - is still a point of contention in the country.

Broadcaster Richard Simon, who told his listeners this week that they should be released, told BBC the time has come to review their situation.

"What have we achieved by keeping them in jail for 21 years? I am of the view that today 21 years later we are no better for keeping them in jail.

"These are some of the brightest minds and I think that it is time for them to make some contribution to a society which has evolved while they have been behind bars."


Mr Simon says recent events such as Mr Coard and the other prisoners remaining in Grenada’s prison while other inmates left when Hurricane Ivan devastated the 17th century jail, go to prove that they have matured and should now have a place in society.

But while most in Grenada are ready to forgive Mr Coard and his group for the crimes, others are not yet prepared to have them released.

One major point of contention is the fact that the victims’ bodies has never been recovered.

Former leader of the now defunct Maurice Bishop Patriotic Movement, Terrence Marryshow, says the government must play a part in revealing exactly what happened during those days in 1983.

National reconciliation

He says they must give the relatives of the dead some form of explanation as to where the remains lie before the matter can be closed.

"It now beholds the authorities of the day to really take the lead in this and bring closure to this period once and for all, to bring the suffering of the families of the victims to an end once and for all by telling us exactly what has happened.

"An official announcement at some level must be made or some declaration that would lead us to conclude this particular period which continues to stand out like a sore thumb, in our politics and our lives and I maintain that it is still our biggest obstacle to national reconciliation."

Bishop, who was Grenada's first left wing prime minister, came to power in 1979 after overthrowing the government of then Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy.

He was killed along with many of his cabinet colleagues during a coup by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Bernard Coard and his followers. Those events led to the invasion of the island by US troops.

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