Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Port of Spain – Authorities in Trinidad and Tobago freed 17 people who were detained under suspicion of being involved in an alleged plot to assassinate the country's prime minister and three other government officials.

The suspects – among them a police officer, two former police officers and a Muslim scholar – were released on Monday night for lack of evidence.

Their release marks a political blow for Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who faced widespread public skepticism over her announcement of the purported conspiracy. Persad-Bissessar went on national television on November 24 and said security officials had uncovered the alleged plot but provided few details.

She came under immediate public pressure to reveal more, but she and security officials refused, saying it would jeopardize an investigation.

The alleged plot and the lack of details created political intrigue in the twin-island Caribbean country, a top supplier of liquefied gas to the US and region's leading oil and gas producer.

Persad-Bissessar, a former attorney general, was elected in May 2010 but has struggled to revive one of the Caribbean's biggest economies.

She called the assassination plot a reprisal by criminals angry about a state of emergency she declared in August to crack down on drug-related crime and gang activity. The anti-crime emergency ended on Monday night.

The suspects had been detained under an order related to the state of emergency. Former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj said that such orders only have life for the duration of the emergency, unless there is enough evidence to lay charges before the state of emergency ends.

Located just 11km off the coast of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago has become a trans-shipment point for South American drugs headed to Europe and the US. - Reuters