Man released from Mongolian prison returns to Minnesota

Former Elk River, Minnesota resident Justin Kapla was pardoned by the country's president and freed from prison, and he returned to U.S. soil on Saturday with his family at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Kapla wasn't allowed to leave Mongolia after the coal mining company he worked for, SouthGobi, was accused of tax evasion back in 2012. He was living under an exit ban in Mongolia for more than two years as the investigation ensued. In late January, he was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison, all while he and his family maintained his innocence. Kapla wasn't working for the mining company when the prosecutors claim the tax evasion took place, and two other trials against him were dismissed for lack of evidence.

After three years of legal battles and travel bans, holding his daughter Evelyn in his arms, Kapla, his wife Solongo and their son Eagle landed, and they were greeted by lots of hugs, a few balloons and plenty of love.

"I was very happy. We didn't know for sure until right up until it happened. When they come in and say ‘You are going home today,' it's a pretty good feeling," Kapla said.

Even though his wife says he's lost a few pounds, Kapla says conditions in the prison weren't as bad as everyone thinks.

"I have to commend the corrections team there. Very respectful to us, never once did we feel in danger. It wasn't terrible. Not like you see on some other foreign prisons very harsh conditions. Nothing like that at all," he said.

Now that he's free, Kapla is looking forward to getting his wife and kids, who are all Mongolian citizens, settled in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

"Just spending time with family and friends that helped make this happen, and eating some hot dish definitely eating some good food. That's definitely on the agenda," he said.

More: Family fights to get Justin Kapla home 


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