Surjeet freed but reaches Wagah in handcuffs (Lead, Changing dateline)

June 28th, 2012 - 12:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Wagah (Pakistan), June 28 (IANS) He may have been officially released from jail Thursday morning but when Indian prisoner Surjeet Singh alighted from the prison van at the Wagah border on the Pakistan side, he was handcuffed and the iron chain was attached to the belt of a Pakistani police officer.

Dressed in a white kurta-pyjama and black turban and carrying two bags, Surjeet, 69, slowly alighted from the prison van with his left hand in handcuffs. The accompanying policemen got down with him but did not open the handcuffs.

He had been released from the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore and reached Wagah about an hour later.

With a smile on his face, Surjeet, who had been in captivity for over 30 years, hugged his Pakistani lawyer who was waiting for him here before being taken away for completion of formalities to enable him to cross into India.

“I will never return to Pakistan again,” Surjeet, who has a grey flowing beard, told reporters in Punjabi with his head and finger indicating a firm “no” gesture.

“I was arrested earlier for spying charges. If I return again, the security agencies might suspect that I have come for spying again,” he said.

Surjeet said prisoners on both sides of the border should be released by the respective governments.

“I was treated well by prison officials and I am thankful to them,” he said.

Surjeet, who spent over 30 years in Pakistani jails after being arrested on charges of spying, walked out of jail to a battery of camera crews waiting to interview him.

He said he was looking forward to meeting his family - waiting excitedly across the border in Attari in the Indian Punjab to welcome him home.

He had completed his life term in 2005.

His family had given up hope of seeing him again, presuming him to be dead after he went missing near the international border in the Ferozepur sector of Punjab in 1982. The return of an Indian prisoner in 2005 rekindled their hopes after the family received a letter from Surjeet.

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