Tibetan activist and former monk Jigme Gyatso freed after 17 years in Chinese jail

Tibetan Buddhist monks leave a ceremony at the historic Labrang Monastery, which is second only to the Potala Palace in Lhasa in size, in the town of Xiahe, Gansu Province on March 14, 2008.

A prominent Tibetan activist has been freed after serving 17 years in a Chinese jail.

Radio Free Asia, citing an unidentified Tibetan source, reported Jigme Gyatso arrived home in Xiahe county in the northwestern province of Gansu on Monday.

The 52-year-old former monk appeared “very weak,” the report said.

Gyatso was jailed in 1996 on charges of separatism and endangering national security after he called for Tibetan independence – a serious offence in China.

Tashi Phuntsok, spokesman for the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile in India, told the Associated Press that Gyatso had been released one year early.

The most likely reason was poor health. The BBC said Gyatso may be suffering from kidney problems.

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