Former Beatle Paul McCartney, jailed for nine days on marijuana-smuggling charges, was freed and deported yesterday.Grinning broadly, McCartney shouted "Goodbye Japan!" as he made his way past cheering fans and boarded a Paris-bound jetliner with his wife and children.
McCartney got his ticket to ride at 4 p.m., emerging from the Metropolitan Tokyo Detention Center with a police escort through a surging mob of fans and cameramen.
McCartney was arrested at Narita on Jan. 16 when he arrived with his band, Wings, for an 11-concert tour. Customs officials said they found 7.7 ounces of marijuana in his luggage.
The concert tour was canceled and members of the band flew to the United States last weekend, while McCartney was held in a private cell at a Tokyo jail. He was questioned repeatedly by police as authorities debated whether to file charges against him. A conviction for violating Japan's drug-smuggling laws could have brought a seven-year prison term.
The prosecutor's office decided not to file charges because McCartney admitted bringing the marijuana into the country "purely for his own use," said an official who refused to be identified.
Because he did not intend to sell the drug during his stay, and only planned a short visit, it was decided that he should be released, the official said adding, "He's been punished enough."
He said another point in McCartney's favor was that he had "shown signs of repentance and apologized."
But authorities said the 37-year-old British-born musician had been banned from Japan for a year and possibly forever.
McCartney gave a thumbs-up sign and sang one of his songs before being put on a plane out of the country.
"Life in the cell was not bad," McCartney said. "I'm okay. Japanese fans are great."
He was referring to the 100 admirers who screamed "Po-Ru, Po-Ru," -- the name "Paul" is not easily pronounced in Japanese -- as he emerged from the police building.
Japanese newspapers had speculated from the time he was arrested that McCartney would be deported rather than brought to trial. That is the usual punishment for foreigners caught bringing in marijuana for their own use only. But there was considerable criticism of McCartney since he had been denied a Japanese visa in 1975 because of two previous marijuana convictions in Europe.
Members of McCartney's entourage said he was treated well in jail and was in "good spirits." His wife said the jailers wouldn't let him have his guitar or writing materials, and he spent most of his time meditating.
However, the police reportedly made several concessions for him, including letting him sleep on a bed instead of on the floor and letting his wife bring him food because he is a vegetarian.
Rock fans gathered each day outside the Tokyo Narcotics Detention Center, where McCartney was held; hoping for a glimpse of the musician as he was taken from the center to the prosecutor's office for questioning.