Before leaving on his trip to China nearly two weeks ago, Czech President Miloš Zeman caused a local stir when he announced that he intended to pardon the country’s most famous prisoner, Jiří Kajínek.
Since then, reporters and news agencies have been camped outside Mírov Prison, waiting to see if the pardon would actually materialize.
Today, it became official: Kajínek became a free man at 13:41 this afternoon, on Tuesday, May 23.
Convicted for a 1994 double murder, Kajínek has become something of a celebrity during the quarter-century he has spent behind bars. Though he never hid his background as a member of Czech underground organizations, he has always proclaimed his innocence, and even took measures to attempt to re-obtain it.
Those include four separate prison breakouts, including a 2000 escape from Mírov Prison that caused a media frenzy. Kajínek became (and remains) the only prisoner to break out of Mírov, the Czech Republic’s highest-security prison, but was caught six weeks later.
But Kajínek himself hasn’t been the only person to proclaim his innocence.
Fueled by doubts over the original trials, many media portrayals of Kajínek have painted the prisoner as a kind of Czech Robin Hood and the victim of a conspiracy. The real killers, some speculate, were police officers involved in his case.
Among the portrayals was a 2010 movie titled Kajínek from director Petr Jákl that went on to be one of the Czech Republic’s highest-grossing films of that year.
On May 10, 2017, Kajínek was visited in prison by First Lady Ivana Zemanová. The following day, President Miloš Zeman announced during a TV interview that he was going to sign a presidential pardon during the second half of May.
The release is a conditional one that stipulates should Kajínek commit any crime in the next seven years he will immediately resume his sentence.
For now, however, the drama surrounding the Czech Republic’s most famous prisoner is over.
Or perhaps, it has only just begun.