Judge in Grenada to free 3 of 13 jailed coup leaders

A judge ordered the immediate release Wednesday of three of 13 imprisoned leaders of the 1983 coup that led to U.S. invasion of Grenada.

All 13 were originally sentenced to death in 1986 for the killings of former socialist leader Maurice Bishop, four Cabinet members and six supporters.

Supreme Court Judge Francis Bell said he showed leniency because the defendants behaved well in prison and demonstrated remorse by inviting the victims' relatives to prison so they could apologize in person.

"I don't accept that they are future risks to the society," he said.

During the 1986 trial, prosecutors said that hard-line members of the Marxist government sent soldiers to kill Bishop on Oct. 19, 1983, considering him too moderate.

Six days after the killings, thousands of U.S. troops stormed the Caribbean island on a mission that President Reagan said would restore order, protect American medical students and prevent a buildup of Cuban military advisers and weapons.

Some relatives of those killed in the coup on the Caribbean island protested the ruling, shouting "Murderers! Murderers!" as they stormed out of the courtroom.

Hundreds of spectators turned out for the weeklong resentencing mandated by a February ruling by the Privy Council, which threw out the death sentences against the prisoners. The London-based panel is the court of last appeal for the former British territory.

Three prisoners - Lester Redhead, Christopher Stroude and Cecil Prime - deserved to go free as soon as possible because they played a minor role in the coup, Bell said.

The judge did not address a request to immediately release former Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, whose attorneys argued he needs eye surgery.

Two other prisoners with health problems, John Ventour and Colville McBarnette, were ordered to appear before a review board within a year.

Defense attorneys argued that the defendants experienced a "spiritual transformation" in prison, tutoring fellow inmates and earning a total of 10 university degrees by correspondence in law, economics, sociology and theology.

But prosecutors said their expressions of remorse were not sincere and requested life sentences for all 13 prisoners.

The bodies of Bishop and the other victims have never been found. Prime Minister Keith Mitchell asked for help from the United States last week to recover them and close a bitter chapter in the island's history.

Four others convicted in 1986 were spared death sentences. They included Coard's wife, who was freed in 2000 to undergo cancer treatment.