Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin freed on parole

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AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES. Thaksin Shinawatra was seen being driven away from a police hospital in the capital Bangkok on Sunday

Feb 18: Thailand's convicted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has arrived at his mansion in the capital Bangkok after being released on parole.

The billionaire was freed from a police hospital, where he had been serving a one-year jail sentence for corruption and abuse of power.

Thaksin, 74, was detained as soon as he returned to Thailand last August from 15 years in self-imposed exile.

He did not spend a single night in jail after complaining of health problems.

Thaksin's original eight-year prison term was commuted to one year by Thailand's king - just days after he returned from exile.

The handling of the case has led to criticism from many Thais, who say the rich and powerful are often given privileged treatment.

On Sunday, Thaksin was seen being driven away from the police hospital in the capital, where he had spent six months.

The authorities said he was eligible for parole due to his age and health issues.

They did not say whether he was released under certain conditions such as monitoring or travel curbs.

Thaksin, Thailand's most successful elected leader, has long been feared by conservative royalists, who have backed military coups and contentious court cases to weaken him.

He left the country in 2008 after being deposed by a coup two years earlier. He spent his exile years mostly in London or Dubai.

His family's Pheu Thai party is currently in power in Thailand.

The former telecoms magnate remains one of the most divisive public figures in the country: loathed by many of Bangkok's rich elite but adored by millions of poor rural Thais for his populist policies.

Thaksin was the first prime minister in Thailand's history to lead an elected government through a full term in office in 2001-06.

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