University of Washington graduate Jason Puracal has been released from prison.
Nearly two years after his arrest, Puracal will return to his native Tacoma an innocent man. The Nicaraguan prison received Puracal's release order Thursday morning.
On Wednesday, a three-judge appellate panel in Granada, Nicaragua vacated his conviction and 22-year prison sentence on charges that he laundered drug money.
"It took way, way too long," said U.S. Congressman Adam Smith of Washington state. "There was never any evidence that should have got Jason arrested in the first place, much less incarcerated."
Smith said the U.S. government is now focused on Puracal's release, as his passport is readied for travel back to the United States.
Puracal, 35, was arrested in the resort village of San Juan del Sur on November 11, 2010. Along with 10 Nicaraguans, he was accused of operating a drug trafficking ring that brought cocaine up from Costa Rica.
On Aug. 29, 2011, Puracal was convicted of drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime.
In recent months, the Nicaraguan government had been under increasing pressure to release Puracal, thanks in part to a media campaign run by his sisters, Janis and Jaime.
"The vindication here is for his family," Smith said. "The family deserves the credit for getting this done. They were relentless from day one in getting a broad base of support to point out the injustice that had been done here."
His sister, Janis Puracal, says the first thing she's going to do when she sees her brother is give him a big hug.
"I just can't imagine what our lives are going to look like after this," Puracal said. "I know that if Jason taught us anything, it's how much we value each other and being near each other."
She said her family is anxiously awaiting the next step.
It is unclear if Puracal's wife, a native-Nicaraguan, will accompany him back to the U.S. The two have a son named Jabu. During his imprisonment, Puracal's family has resided in Managua, roughly 15 minutes from the prison where he is being held.
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