The families of four Pakistani prisoners currently held in a Saudi jail have appealed for their release to the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Ten years ago the four Pakistanis went to Riyadh, on a legal visa, where they were hired as day labourers. Their work involved loading plywood boards into trucks. One day, however, police raided one of the vehicles and found hemp inside the boards.
Consequently, all of the men were arrested and subsequently sentenced to three years imprisonment with a 3.9million riyal fine.
At a press conference, the family members claimed that the contractor was also arrested and confessed to his crime – and said the four labourers were innocent. According to the families, the original convict was later hanged by the Saudi government but the four innocents were still sentenced to jail.
“Instead of three years, they have spent more than 10 years in jail. Now the Saudi government refuses to release them,” Sikander, the father of one of the prisoners said. “We appeal to the government of Pakistan and human rights agencies to take steps for the release of the four prisoners.”
Sikander explains how the family’s financial situation has gone from bad to worse: “I wanted to tackle our poverty for which I borrowed Rs300,000 for a Saudi visa to send my son abroad. He went there to change our standard of life, but he was imprisoned instead. Because he could not financially support me we are in great troubles.”
The children of the prisoners also wait for their fathers’ return. Luqman, 15, says: “I was five years old when my father went abroad. At first I waited for toys to be sent by my father but then I gave up. But one thing bothered me a lot – when often I don’t have answers when my classmates ask about my father. I appeal to the government of Pakistan to do something for the release of my father.”
Raja Liqat Ali, chairman of the Pakistan International Human Rights Orgnanisation, says he will take up the case with the ministry of human rights.
“This is clearly a violation of human rights as they have already completed the court’s punishment. Now if they cannot pay the fine due to poverty the court should have imposed imprisonment instead of it,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 25th, 2011.
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