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The Lede Exclusive: Modi’s Oman Visit Enabled Our Freedom, Say 62 Released Indians

The papers of 62 Indians jailed in Oman are under process to enable them to come back home

Sixty two Indians, many who were serving jail terms for over two decades, have been released by the Oman government.

According to released inmates and social workers who were following up their cases for the last few years, the release has happened following the ‘request’ made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s to the Omani ruler during his recent visit to Oman.

Among the 62, five Keralites who were jailed on murder charges, were also released. Indian External Affairs Ministry, Indian Embassy in Oman and a few social workers have been following the case of jailed Indians tirelessly for the last few years.

Among the released 62, Santhosh Kumar and Shajahan, were jailed on ‘murder charges’ of two Omani security guards in 1997.

The charges on the two Keralites were that they had allowed the convicts, a group of Pakistanis, to reportedly buy weapons for a robbery and murder from the Keralites’ shop in Oman. The Oman court had slapped a death sentence on the four Pakistanis involved in the case. To date, Shajahan and Santhosh had completed 21 years in the jail.

“The release paper we saw showed that the request is from Modi to the Oman ruler. Let Oman ruler live long. I am jailed for the last 20 years. Dr Sunny and Thayyil Habeeb have helped us a lot,” Shajahan told The Lede in an exclusive interview.

“The Almighty brought Modi here. If he had not come here, nothing would have happened,” he added.

Santhosh too agreed that Modi’s request has helped their release. “Modi’s request to Oman Ruler helped our release,” he repeated.

Other than Shajahan, Nawas, another murder case convict, has also been released. He was in jail for the last 15 years.

The fourth Keralite who was released is Manaf, jailed for the last 10 years. The fifth Keralite who was released is Bharathan Pillai who was jailed for the last 18 years.

“If he (Modi) had not done that we would have remained here. Let the Oman ruler live for 100 more years and Modi rule India again,” the freed prisoners told The Lede in an exclusive interview.

Meanwhile, Thayyil Habeeb, a social worker, who was following up the release of Santhosh and Shajahan said that he was glad his efforts had seen result. “I thank the Almighty for this,” he added.

The Indian embassy in Oman said that they were waiting for official confirmation on the release.

In a message to The Lede, the Indian ambassador to Oman, Indra Mani Pandey, said that they are waiting to confirm the information.

In Arab countries, diplomatic limitations restrain embassy officials from speaking on such sensitive issues. According to earlier reports, as many as 7620 Indian nationals are lodged in foreign jails, with the highest number in Saudi Arabia.

In response to a question raised in the Lok Sabha in 2017, Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar said due to strong privacy laws prevailing in many countries, local authorities do not share information on prisoners unless the person concerned consents to the disclosure of such information.

Of the 7620 prisoners lodged in 86 jails, at least 50 are women, according to data available with the government. Most of these women are in prisons in south-east Asia, neighbouring Sri Lanka, China and Nepal, the Gulf countries, the US and UK.

The Gulf countries account for 56% of all Indian nationals in foreign jails. The prisons in Saudi Arabia have the highest number of Indian nationals, with 2084 of them confined on charges of financial fraud, burglary and bribery.

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