A man from Bihar has been languishing in a jail in Saudi Arabia for over 15 years, and his family, unable to pay a punishment sum of over Rs 1 crore to secure his release, has now approached External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for help.
Mohammed Irfan, 42, was arrested for allegedly committing theft of medicines from a local government warehouse in Jeddah in January 2000 and has been in jail since then, according to a December 21, 2016 correspondence between the Ministry of External Affairs and National Commission for Minorities (NCM) member Praveen Davar.
Irfan was arrested for allegedly violating two Saudi rights — public and private.
While Irfan, who hails from Bihar’s Piplawan village, has served imprisonment of 18 months under public right, he continues to be in prison for not fulfilling private right, under which he is required to pay a penalty amount of around Rs 1.29 crore (7,11,562 Saudi Riyals).
According to a public court in Jeddah, Irfan must pay the amount to the Saudi Health Ministry for allegedly stealing medicines from the warehouse of its medical supply department, where he used to work as an air-conditioner technician.
Irfan is accused of selling the medicines to Mansoor Ali Hakeem, a Bangladeshi national, and transmitting cost of the medicines.
Given the prevalent rules/laws of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, no one can exempt/waive or commute punishment awarded under private right except the affected party, the correspondence from the office of Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar said.
The matter was taken up several times with the Saudi authorities concerned in the past, but no positive reply has been received till now in this regard, it said.
Irfan’s father Shakeel Ahmed and his brother Istekhar visited Jeddah during February-March, last year to enquire about the case and to meet him, the documents said.
Istekhar, who is said to have shifted with the family to Phulwari Shareef village now from Piplawan, though told that it was not him or his father but his cousin who had met Irfan.
“We are poor people. We can’t afford to travel to Saudi Arabia. It’s not me or my father, but a cousin who had gone to see him,” Istekhar said on phone.
A tutor by profession, Istekhar said the family had in the past approached several authorities including the Prime Minister’s Office and the External Affairs Ministry for help when Pranab Mukherjee, now President, was the External Affairs Minister.
“We sold our land and house to see my brother is released. A person who promised us help, took money but did not help us. We now urge (Sushma) Swaraj ji to help my brother return. My parents have turned old now, waiting to see their son. We earnestly request the minister to help us,” he urged.
Istekhar also alleged that his brother was framed by a Mumbai-based firm which had hired him in 1996 to work in the Gulf country.
Irfan wanted to return home in the year he was arrested, but his employer was against it, he claimed.
He charged the employer with forcibly making Irfan work two years beyond the agreement and also paying less than what was assured.
Meanwhile, Davar has urged individuals and NGOs to extend monetary help to the family to secure Irfan’s release.