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Opposition leader Basdeo Panday finally accepts bail

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June 9 Port of Spain Trinidad: Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday finally accepted bail after eight days in prison. He said to supporters shortly after being released that he can withstand any pressure from the ruling PNM party.

Panday's first stop was at a "camp" erected about a mile away from the prison where he had been kept after first refusing a $750,000 bail when slapped with a corruption charge on May 31, and a lower bail of $650,000 bail on Tuesday.

Still unshaven, the 72-year-old leader of the UNC warned: "I know (now) I can take anything they can dish out. I hope they can take what I will dish out".

Panday, who had pledged a drawn out stay in prison, told the media at the gates of the prison that he had been persuaded to accept bail during a visit from members of the Inter-Religious Organisation.

Around 11 a.m. Archbishop Edward Gilbert, Maha Sabha head Sat Maharaj and four other members of the IRO, including Minister Amilius Murrain representing the spiritual Baptists, visited Panday in the prison. Murrain said, "we did not force him into it. We only suggested it. We pointed out certain facts to him which he appeared to accept."

Murrain said they were concerned over Panday's health since he looked "a little drawn".

Panday walked out of the prison at 4.49 p.m. Wednesday following a flurry of activity among senior members of the UNC. Dr Tim Gopeesingh and his wife reportedly stood the $650,000 bail set by Port of Spain Magistrate Ejenny Espinet.

Before his release, his wife Oma, her daughter Mikela and other party supporters arrived at the prison and were followed by Panday's attorney Prakash Ramadhar, Gopeesingh, Wade Mark, Ganga Singh and several others.

Panday said he was hoping to go to parliament but because of delays it was too late.

Asked if he was backing down by taking bail, he responded: "I am too old to turn back now."

Talking to party faithful at their camp, Panday thanked them for their eight-day sacrifice:

"I want to assure you that I am absolutely innocent of the charge of. It is malicious, it is vindictive. they have no evidence of it." I thought that I would have at least given you the assurance that you have been here in support of someone who is innocent."

Panday was cautious when responding to Jack Warner's efforts to have estranged and former UNC members return firmly to the fold.

"Mr Warner is one of our most trusted and beloved colleague and we respect his views, and we think he is entitled to them" was all he was prepared to say.

Warner later told the Daily Express: "I've had his confidence and trust and therefore of course all we have to do is sit down and discuss the rules of engagement but nobody in the party at the highest level has disagreed with what I am doing."

He said Panday had been kept abreast at every stage.

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