Leading article: Prison break

Thursday 22 July 2010 00:00
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Free at last! Well almost. It is not exactly Nelson Mandela emerging from Victor Verster Prison. The former media tycoon Conrad Black, known to his admirers as Baron Black of Crossharbour and to his enemies as prisoner 18330-424 of the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida, has been granted bail after serving two years of his six-and-a-half year jail term.

It will be a restricted sort of freedom. Apparently, Black will have to remain in the United States pending his appeal against his 2007 conviction for stealing from his company's shareholders. And it remains to be decided whether any fancy-dress parties will be permitted for the released prisoner.

But the bigger question is whether this will turn out like the Hundred Days of Black's hero Napoleon – a lively but brief campaign before the inevitable and final end. Or will it mark the beginning of an incredible resurrection, another remarkable chapter in an extraordinary career? Black will doubtless find encouragement in the words of the French emperor that "impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools". For the rest of us, the drama continues.

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