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Woman's 11-month ordeal ends

A 35-year-old Indian lady doctor tormented for 11 months in Saudi Arabia on suspicion of murdering her husband is safely home.

delhi Updated: Dec 23, 2010 22:57 IST
Vinod Sharma

A 35-year-old Indian lady doctor tormented for 11 months in Saudi Arabia on suspicion of murdering her husband is safely home.

Her nightmare was scripted by Pakistani colleagues of her deceased husband Dr Ashish Chawla at King Khalid Hospital at Najran. They claimed that he was poisoned for having converted to Islam.

The complaints were found baseless — but not before Dr Shalini Chawla spent time in solitary confinement and faced two police probes.

Her infant son, born after her husband's death on January 31, was with her at the detention centre for 25 days in March-April. What compounded her misery was that while in police custody, she had no contact with her daughter, then only two years old.

After HT first reported the case in April, then minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor moved the Saudi mission here and the Indian consul general in Jeddah. Her detention, that began in mid-March, consequently came to an end but not the investigations.

A legal medical specialist under the Saudi ministry of health had certified "myocardial infarction" as the cause of Dr Ashish's death. But the police ignored his report — lending greater credence to the murder complaint brought a month later while she was preparing to return home with her husband's body.

Dr Shalini was placed under probe and her husband's body in a mortuary.

The Saudi Gazette reported on March 25 this year that preliminary investigations revealed no foul play. Yet, the police seized her travel papers, taking another nine months to set her free, obtaining in the interregnum a written commitment that she'd claim no financial compensation and bury her husband as per Islamic rites.

But Dr Ashish was cremated as a Hindu at Nigambodh Ghat on Wednesday.

"We did not honour the undertaking because the case proved to be false. The authorities gave us no relief after our written assurance — taking eight months to let his wife return with the body," said Dr Shalini's uncle HP Nagpal. "The least the Saudi government can now do is to punish the complainants who brought so much harm and infamy to the deceased's family."

Dr Shalini thanked "God and the Indian consulate general" for bringing her freedom. "My first priority now is to raise my children. That'll be the best way to keep my husband's memory alive," she said.