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08 September, 2009 - Published 12:16 GMT

Coard: regrets and reconciliation

The former deputy prime minister of Grenada Bernard Coard has told BBC Caribbean that he is relieved and surprised to be released from jail so early.

Mr Coard along with thirteen others, was released from jail on Saturday after a total of twenty-six years.

He was part of the so-called 'Grenada 17' who were convicted for the murder of then prime minister Maurice Bishop and several members of his cabinet, in a coup on 19 October 1983.

Fours years before, on 13 March 1979, Coard and Bishop had led a coup by their People's Revolutionary Army which unseated the country's leader Sir Eric Gairy.

But internal wrangling over ideological differences split their left-wing People's Revolutionary Government (PRG).

Bishop along with a number of his allies were placed under house arrest, and subsequently shot and killed.

Timeline

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), then chaired by the prime minister of Dominica, Eugenia Charles, appealed to the United States, Barbados, and Jamaica for assistance in putting down the uprising.

That resulted in a US-invasion of Grenada on 25 October 1983, and military clashes between US and Grenadian military forces.

Coard, along with his wife Phyllis, and several others were arrested on October 31, 1983.

Put on trial in 1986, they were found guilty and sentenced to death.

In 1991, their death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

A British Privy Council ruling in 2007 deemed the previous death sentence unconstitutional.

Mr Coard has told BBC Caribbean that many mistakes were made and those involved would have to live with them for the rest of their lives.

"I think what is important is that we learn from the mistakes of the past, we as a society, as a people," Mr Coard said.

Listen to Bernard Coard's interview with Marie-Claire Williams