Death row Indian leaves for home after 9 years in jail
An Indian expatriate, who spent almost nine years in prison in connection with the murder case of a Pakistani worker, was deported to India on board an Air India flight on Sunday after a Riyadh court acquitted him of the charges.
Abdul Rahman Punnoth, who hails from Mavoor in Kozhikode district of the southern state of Kerala, reunited with his family after several years of ordeal. Punnoth told Saudi Gazette that he has no words to express his joy over the court verdict.
“While living behind the bars since 28 April 2006, I was fully confident that the Saudi judiciary would one day uphold my innocence in the murder case of my Pakistani colleague Sabir Khan,” he said.
Punnoth thanked God for the opportunity to meet his aged parents, sick wife and 9-year-old son whom he saw for the first time.
According to the case file, Punnoth was working as laborer at Riyadh’s Al- Zaben Company since 2003. Sabir Khan, who worked as a watchman at the warehouse of the company’s Oraija Store, was found dead in April 2006. It was reported that Punnoth visited Khan along with some Bangladeshi nationals who wanted to purchase waste material of cables from the warehouse, apparently without the knowledge of the warehouse owner. When Punnoth reached the warehouse next day, he found Khan murdered. He reported this to the company management and police. He was then arrested by the police, according to Muneeb Pazhoor, who was following up the case since the last five years.
Pazhoor, a representative of Riyadh Indian Fraternity Forum (IFF), said that he had received authorization from the Indian embassy in March 2009 to follow up the case and subsequently approached the concerned authorities several times. These included Oraija police station, Riyadh general court, Malaz jail, Riyadh branch of the National Society for Human Rights, Department of General Investigation, police headquarters, and Riyadh governorate.
He thanked the authorities for completing the judicial process and upheld the innocence of Punnoth.
In 2010, Punnoth was sentenced to four years in prison and 400 lashes after convicted of his connivance in stealing scrap cables by the Bangladeshi nationals. Haroon Rasheed Kalamiyah, a Bangladeshi national, who was awarded five years in jail and 600 lashes, is currently serving jail term, while other three Bangladeshis are reportedly absconding.
Pazhoor said IFF contacted Sabir Khan’s family members in Pakistan several times but failed to secure a power of attorney to the embassy of Pakistan so that it could not appear in the court, representing the victim.
“This delayed court procedures, but the court finally issued verdict after adjourning the sittings several times earlier. Exit procedures were finalized after Punnoth’s sponsor gave the clearance, and Afzal Vettathur, a relative of Punnoth, produced travel ticket.”
Vettathur said that Riyadh governorate’s intervention facilitated the deportation of Punnoth after the court found him not guilty of the Pakistani’s murder.