Thailand's jailed former PM Thaksin to be freed, says justice minister

Jailed former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is to be freed, the government said Tuesday, possibly as soon as the weekend -- just six months after returning from 15 years of self-imposed exile.

The controversial billionaire, twice elected premier and ousted in a 2006 military coup, was jailed for eight years on graft and abuse of power charges in August, but within days had his sentence cut to one year by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Justice Minister Tawee Sodsong said Tuesday that the former Manchester City owner, 74, would be among 930 prisoners granted early release.

"He is in the group where they are in a critical condition or aged over 70. He will be released after six months automatically," Tawee Sodsong told reporters.

Thaksin was jailed on August 22 last year, and Thai media reported that his release could come any day from Saturday.

His homecoming coincided with his Pheu Thai party returning to government in alliance with pro-military parties, leading many to conclude that an agreement had been struck to cut his jail time.

The rumours grew stronger when he was transferred to a police hospital within hours of being sentenced because of his poor health, and it is not clear that he has spent any time in a prison cell.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, of the Pheu Thai party, confirmed Thaksin would be freed and insisted the move was in line with the law, saying "he already served his jail time".

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