Canadian recalls ordeal in Bihar’s `rat-infested’ jailMarch 29th, 2008 - 9:36 am ICT by admin
Toronto, March 29 (IANS) A Canadian, who was jailed for three years last October for entering India from Nepal on a expired visa 10 months ago, returned home Friday after being released by an Indian court. The case of Montreal businessman Saul Itzhayek made headlines in Canada, forcing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his foreign minister Maxime Bernier to take up his case with their Indian counterparts.
The pressure on the Canadian government mounted further early this month when two blasts - triggered in an inter-gang rivalry - in Bihar’s Motihari Jail where Itzhayek was kept, killed one person.
His family, who repeatedly highlighted his plight in the media, feared for his safety, prompting former justice minister Irwin Cotler to pressure the Canadian government to get him released.
On landing at Montreal’s Pierre Trudeau airport Friday afternoon, the 42-year-old Canadian said he felt “incredible” to be back with his family. The Jewish businessman thanked the Canadian government, the media, the public at large for their support for his release.
“I thank you all from the bottom of my heart,” a relieved Itzhayek said at the airport, flanked by his wife and son. “I’m very happy to see my family, it is the only thing I wanted to do, to sit down with them.I need a couple of days to get my head together,” he said.
Recalling his ordeal, he said the Bihar jail was filthy and infested with rats and scorpions.
“It’s a completely different life. You never know when you’re gonna leave, you never know what’s going to happen to you when you walk around,” he said.
He said he lost 60 pounds from eating unhygienic food and drinking dirty water, and cried “for about 10 or 15 minutes when I heard I was released.”
The Canadian, who claimed in court affidavit that he was on a business trip to Nepal, was arrested last May when he entered India on an expired visa to collect money wired to him at an address in India.
He said he sent his Nepalese driver to pick up the money. But the driver was arrested by the Indian police who also seized Itzhayek’s passport and other documents from him.
The Canadian claimed that first the India police allowed him to collect his passport and other documents. But once inside India, the police demand a bribe to let him go.
His refusal to comply, he said, led to his arrest.
Since the Indian court has not overturned his conviction but only freed him because of the time he spent in jail, Itzhayek said he would work to clear his name in India.
The law firm of former Indian solicitor general Harish Salve is representing him in the case.
After he was released Tuesday, Itzhayek left for Kathmandu where he boarded a flight for Montreal.
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