After 17 months of being tossed between different jails for a crime he did not commit, justice finally came to Adibe George (32) of Nigeria. It was too late.
George, a Nigerian footballer, had a heart attack in jail and is now paralysed from the waist down.
On May 28, the Kerala High Court threw out all cases against him and said he and a friend should never have been arrested
Battling for his life in a palliative care unit in the district hospital of Thrissur, about 80 kilometers north of the port city of Kochi, George’s ordeal isn’t over.
He must now be deported.
George and Kinston E Chukku (32) were arrested by the Kerala Police on December 8, 2007 in western Kerala’s Idukki district for overstaying their visa, a violation of the Indian Passport Act.
The state police have sought emergency travel documents from the Ministry of External Affairs and the Nigerian embassy in Delhi so they can be put on a flight to Nigeria.
The sorry saga of George and Chukku began when they arrived in Mumbai in 2007 to play club football. They were invited to Kerala to play mini soccer, a popular game in the Malabar region, where seven — instead of 11 — men play.
In Kerala, their sponsors dissappeared, and they were arrested. With a language problem keeping them from explaining their situation to the officials, they were tossed into jail.
Bad food, lack of physical activity and tension led to George’s heart attack.
Jail officials admitted him to Thirssur and Kozhikode medical college hospitals, where doctors hope he will recover.
The police are still confused.
“We have no idea about their status,” Idukki Superintendent of Police K P Kuttapai told Hindustan Times.
“They are claiming that they are footballers. But we haven’t got any confirmation on this.”
One of George’s doctors, requesting anonymity, said the Nigerian was “responding to the treatment slowly”.
“But he needs constant observation and vigorous treatment at this stage.”
“We have no idea how he could be deported,” the doctor added.
Hospital authorities have sent several letters to the address that George gave them, but there’s been no response from his family in Nigeria. Doctors surmise the family is poor.
“They may be sacred of paying his hospital bills and travel expenses,” the doctor said.
Superintendent Kuttapai said the police were going ahead with deportation formalities.
“We have put up one person in a lodge and since the other is recuperating in a hospital,” he said “we have allowed him to stay there since the formalities are over.”