Philippines Releases Disabled UK Minor Pot Smuggler After 19 Years

Meet William "Billy" Burton. He's a Thalidomide baby born with short arms and twisted hands. In 1992, at age 29, he was traveling abroad and ran into financial difficulties. He attempted to smuggle 12 pounds of marijuana from the Philippines to Australia.

Interrogated without counsel and under duress, Billy was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. When sentenced, he was eligible for release in 8 years. But the Philippines later changed its laws on parole and retroactivity and his minimum time to serve on a life sentence became first 30 years, then 40 years. He wouldn't get released until 2032.

Now 48, and having served the past 19 years at the maximum security New Bilibid Prison, south of Manila, this week Billy was granted a conditional pardon due to his deteriorating health by Philippines President Benigno Aquino III . He's been released to go home to Britain.

Here are some happy photos of him being released from prison.

His release is the culmination of a 20 month effort by organizations in Britain, including Fair Trials International and supporters of the UK Thalidomide Trust. Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne says he also was supportive.

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