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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 November 2005, 16:03 GMT
Drug charge sailor finally freed
John Packwood
John Packwood was released from jail in Morocco on Thursday
A British yachtsman held in a Moroccan jail over drugs charges has been freed.

John Packwood, 42, a marine engineer from the Isle Of Wight, was facing charges of drug trafficking and association with criminals.

He was employed to deliver a yacht that was later used in a drug deal. He had always maintained his innocence.

Three weeks ago a judge ruled that he should stand trial, but on Thursday he was released from jail after he received a pardon from the king.

It was one of a number of pardons given by King Mohammed VI to celebrate Morocco's 50th anniversary of independence.

It had been applied for by Mr Packwood's legal team on the grounds of his innocence, even though he had not yet stood trial on the charges.

I won't quite believe it until I see him in the flesh
Catherine Packwood

His partner, Jane Amestoy, said: "It's a strange process but we don't care how it works, only that it did work.

"We are all shocked."

"I don't think John had time for his feet to touch the ground, after a year in prison and being taken everywhere by handcuffs, in a few minutes he was sitting in the British Embassy.

"It was a surreal moment but a huge relief for everyone."

Ms Amestoy said her partner was now at the British Embassy in the Moroccan capital Rabat, and would be returning to the UK on Friday.

Jane Amestoy
Mr Packwood's partner, Jane Amestoy, welcomed the news

The yachtsman's sister, Catherine Packwood, from Salisbury, said she was delighted at the news, but added: "I won't quite believe it until I see him in the flesh."

Mr Packwood had been held in a Spanish jail since October 2004, before being extradited to Morocco in September.

He delivered a yacht with three other crew members from the UK to the purchasers in Morocco in April 1997.

Four Colombians later used the same boat for a deal involving six tonnes of cocaine.

Mr Packwood did not know that a warrant had been issued for his arrest until he arrived in Spain last October for a holiday.

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