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Prisoner swap with 6 nations

With over 6,540 Indians languishing in jails in 59 countries, India is about to finalise bilateral agreements with at least six countries so that its citizens imprisoned abroad can be brought back and put behind bars in New Delhi, reports Manish Tiwari.

india Updated: Oct 11, 2009 01:31 IST
Manish Tiwari

India is about to finalise bilateral agreements with at least six countries so that its citizens imprisoned abroad can be brought back and put behind bars in New Delhi.

With over 6,540 Indians languishing in jails in 59 countries, the ministry of home affairs has initiated an exercise to sign agreements with some of the countries where they are incarcerated: Saudi Arabia (1,369), UAE (1,221), Sri Lanka (43), Hong Kong, Brazil and South Korea. A pact with Saudi Arabia is top priority.

“India will soon sign agreements with Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and South Korea,” said a ministry official who did not want to be identified.

“Discussions for the exchange of prisoners with the UAE, Maldives, Brazil and Sri Lanka are in final stages.”

India already has similar arrangements with the US (225 Indians in jail), the UK (375), Canada, Bulgaria and Mauritius.

Pakistan has 855 Indians in its prisons and Bangladesh, 338.

“Indians lodged in UK or US jails may not be interested in getting transferred — due to the better conditions there,” said the official. “But those in places such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka often send requests for a transfer to Indian jails.”

Pacts on the exchange of prisoners allow inmates to serve their remaining sentences in the jails of their home country.

Last year, India had secured the transfer of 12 prisoners from Mauritius.

Also, two British nationals imprisoned in India were recently handed over to the UK on a reciprocal basis, said the ministry official.

Citing inhuman conditions, Indian detainees in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka have been asking the authorities to help move them to India.

Five months ago, the government had approached the countries where Indians are imprisoned, and called for bilateral agreements on the transfer of prisoners.

The death of an Indian prisoner had sparked a hunger strike by 400 inmates, most of them Indians, at the Shumaisy Deportation Centre in Saudi Arabia, a month ago. Sheikh Muhammed Saqib (50), hailing from Uttar Pradesh, had spent eight months at the facility.

In September, the internet edition of Saudi Gazette had quoted R. Muraleedharan, president of the Federation of Kerala Association in Saudi Arabia, as saying that Indian inmates lived in inhuman conditions — some even had to sleep in toilets due to overcrowding.