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American freed after 2 years in Nicaraguan 'hellhole'

From David Puente, CNN
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sat September 15, 2012
Jason Puracal, a 35-year-old native of Washington state, had been serving a 22-year sentence for drug-related crimes in Nicaragua.
Jason Puracal, a 35-year-old native of Washington state, had been serving a 22-year sentence for drug-related crimes in Nicaragua.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jason Puracal had been serving a 22-year sentence for drug-related crimes
  • He was freed Thursday
  • Puracal, who is married to a Nicaraguan, left the country Friday

(CNN) -- An American who had been imprisoned for nearly two years in Nicaragua left the country Friday, a day after he was set free, and was en route to a reunion with his family, a spokesman for his family told CNN.

Jason Puracal, a 35-year-old native of Washington state, had been serving a 22-year sentence for drug-related crimes in one of the Latin American country's most notorious prisons. He was one of 12 people whose charges were vacated, according to his legal team and a judicial order signed Wednesday that the team gave to CNN.

Since his arrest in 2011, Puracal had many defenders who said the charges were baseless. They included human rights activists, international attorneys, a U.N. body, a former FBI investigator and a U.S. congressman.

Details about Puracal's two years in prison

In August, Puracal spoke by phone with CNN's Anderson Cooper, saying he was imprisoned in a "hellhole" and that he was "100 percent innocent."

"I don't know the reason that I'm here," Puracal said. "That's been a mystery from the very beginning. What the motives behind the police and the prosecution have been."

Wednesday's court order resulted from an appeal hearing that concluded this summer, in which Puracal's legal team argued for his release.

"The family is thrilled to hear the news that they are another huge step closer to bringing Jason home," said Eric Volz, a spokesman for Puracal's family and managing director of the David House Agency, the crisis-management firm handling the case, prior to his client's release. "There is one thing we have known all along over the past two years: Jason is innocent."

Citing safety concerns, Volz would not say where or when the reunion was to take place. Puracal, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua, is married to a Nicaraguan and has a son, is to appear Monday on CNN's "AC360."

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