No security threat to jailed Canadian: Bihar police

March 18th, 2008 - 5:50 pm ICT by admin  

Patna, March 18 (IANS) There is no security threat to Canadian businessman Saul Itzhayek, who is lodged in a Bihar jail for alleged visa violations, the police said Tuesday, in the wake of concern over blasts in the prison caused by gang rivalry. The 42-year-old Canadian has been in Bihar’s Motihari jail for nearly 10 months. His bail petition will come up for hearing soon.

Sunil Kumar Jha, Motihari superintendent of police, denied there was any security threat to Itzhayek, a day after former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler raised concerns over the safety of the Canadian in view of the blasts last week.

Cotler and Itzhayek’s family have urged their government to press India to free him.

Jha said the blast at the jail’s gate last week was a minor one that took place due to tension between two rival groups lodged in the jail. “After the minor blast, security has been tightened at the jail,” he said.

Itzhayek’s sister Sylvia, who spoke to him after the blasts, was quoted by the Canadian press as saying that her brother was “very, very afraid. He pleaded with me to get him out of there”.

The Montreal businessman was arrested last May while trying to enter India on an expired visa. His family says he was in Nepal on a business trip when he needed money, which was wired to him at some Indian address.

They say when he sent his Nepalese driver to pick up the money in India, he (the driver) was arrested with Itzhayek’s passport. This led to his arrest.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Junior Minister Helena Guergis raised the issue with the Indian delegation at the Kampala Commonwealth Summit last year. Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier also raised the issue with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee during their talks in New Delhi in January.

But his sister says Canada is not doing enough to get her brother released. She alleges that Itzhayek was jailed because he refused to bribe Indian jail authorities.

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