Activists seek release of Pakistani virologist
Jaipur: Dr Syed Mohammad Khalil Chisti, an 80-year-old virologist from Pakistan, is hopeful of returning home soon after spending 19 years in an Indian prison.
Chisti is currently lodged in Ajmer Central Jail for the murder of a relative in a brawl over disputed property. Human rights and peace activists from both India and Pakistan are actively campaigning for the release of Chisti on humanitarian grounds.
Apart from activist groups, the joint committee of Indo-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners has issued a joint statement for the release of Chisti after being convicted for life imprisonment on a murder charge. His bail plea was rejected by the Rajasthan High Court.
Pakistani and Indian peace activists have urged the joint committee to recommend to both the governments to immediately release all Pakistani and Indian prisoners who are languishing in jails of the two countries.
The peace activists and members of civil organisations of Pakistan and India welcomed the convening of a meeting after a gap of more than two-and-a-half years.
"We sincerely thank both the governments for releasing a number of prisoners from each other's prisons," said the letter signed from the Pakistani side by Syed Iqbal Haider, former law minister and Attorney General of Pakistan, and others.
From the Indian side the letter was signed by film maker Mahesh Bhatt, social activist Kamla Bhasin, former MP Shahid Seddiqi, lawyer Jatin Desai and others.
The letter requested the joint committee to make efforts for the release of all prisoners beyond the age of 70, particularly the most deserving case of Chisti.
"My father has a PhD in Virology from Edinburgh University, UK. He has had an illustrious career as a professor of virology and when he retired in the late 1980s, his last post was director of public health at the King Abdul Aziz Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. This whole ordeal leading to my father being charged happened simply because he was present at the wrong place at the wrong time and we firmly believe that the first information report against him contained misleading facts. However, throughout the 19 years of his trial he did not have an independent lawyer, and since the lawyer he shared with his nephews failed to adequately represent him and prove his innocence, he is where he is today," wrote Chisti's daughter Amnah.
Amnah started writing to Indian authorities last year in a desperate attempt to get help and mercy.
A trial court in Ajmer had sentenced Chisti and the other accused to life imprisonment and a fine of Rs20,000 (Dh1,640).
An appeal for suspension of sentence, moved by Chisti in the Rajasthan High Court was rejected on the ground that he was a Pakistani national and that no leniency could be shown in his case.
However, the plea for suspension of sentence from the other accused was granted.