ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada – 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 and he said the remainder will serve less than two more years behind bars.
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.
Some relatives of those killed in the coup on the Caribbean island protested the ruling, shouting "Murders! 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 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 later this year.
During the 1986 trial, prosecutors said Coard and other 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.
Four others convicted in 1986 were spared death sentences. They included Coard's wife, who was freed in 2000 to undergo cancer treatment.