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Scottish politican released from jail

FORMER member of the Scottish parliament Tommy Sheridan was freed from prison today after serving just over one year of his three-year sentence for lying under oath.

The 47-year-old was walked out of Castle Huntly prison near Dundee shortly after 10am.

His wife Gail went to the open prison this morning and they left together, being driven away.

The politician and former Celebrity Big Brother contestant was jailed on January 26 last year for committing perjury during his successful defamation action against the News of the World in 2006.

He was awarded £200,000 (€239,000) in damages after winning the civil case but a jury at the High Court in Glasgow found him guilty of lying about the now-defunct tabloid's claims that he was an adulterer who visited a swingers' club.

Trial judge Lord Bracadale subsequently handed the former leader of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) a three-year jail sentence, telling him his decision to pursue the Sunday tabloid for defamation "brought the walls of the temple crashing down" on him.

A statement is expected to be issued from his home in Glasgow later this morning.

Sheridan's trial was one of the longest of its kind in Scottish legal history. He was convicted of five out of six allegations in a single charge of perjury, relating to his evidence during the civil action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

During the three-month High Court trial, Sheridan claimed he was the victim of a "vendetta" by the police and a "conspiracy" involving the Sunday newspaper and former colleagues within the SSP.

In August last year he was denied the chance to appeal against his conviction, following a ruling by senior judges.

Any prisoner serving a sentence of less than four years is currently eligible for automatic early release at the halfway point in their jail term. Sheridan would therefore be entitled to be freed from prison after 18 months.

However, under current provisions, it is possible for individuals to spend up to the last six months of their sentence on home detention curfew.

This means they can be freed from prison to live at home but must wear an electronically monitored tag for the remainder of their sentence.

At the weekend Sheridan's lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said he had been told that prison authorities would try to "gag" him on his release. Mr Anwar promised to seek a judicial review if a public-speaking ban features in Sheridan's release conditions.

Speaking on Saturday, Mr Anwar said: "I was aware that this was being imposed. It's unprecedented, absolutely draconian and denies my client the right to earn a living."