March 8, 2007 / 1:06 PM / 13 years ago

Prisoner freed after first hearing in 19 years

ASUNCION (Reuters) - A Paraguayan man walked free on Wednesday after spending 19 years in prison without ever being tried.

Jose Garcia, 39, was held in the psychiatric wing of the Tacumbu prison in the capital Asuncion, but at his first court hearing in nearly two decades he was cleared of wrongdoing and immediately released, a witness at the hearing told Reuters.

Garcia was originally detained on accusations of violent conduct, but he was never tried for any crime.

Prison governor Teofilo Baez told local media Garcia had been abandoned by his relatives and that jail wardens had not been able to contact them.

International human rights groups have criticized Paraguay for the large number of prisoners held without trial and for the inadequate level of treatment received by inmates on psychiatric wings.

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