Bhupal Man Damai alias Yusuf Nepali, who was jailed in connection with the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 to Kandahar in December 1999, was on Saturday released a month after a court exonerated him.
The 54-year-old was released from Patiala Central jail round 6.30 pm, with a stamp on his wrist, which entitles him to free train journey till Gorakhpur en route to his native place in Nepal. Soon after his release, Nepali told reporters that he was not involved in the hijacking.
Punjab and Haryana High Court had in February exonerated him and another accused, Dilip Kumar Bhujel, of murder, hijacking and other offences on grounds that CBI failed to prove their “active participation” in the plot to hijack the plane.
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CBI had named 10 accused, including seven Pakistanis, for conspiring and executing the hijacking. Bhujel and Abdul Latif Adam Momin were Indians, while Yusuf Nepali was from Nepal. Bhujel, Momin and Nepali were charged with providing logistical support to the main accused.
A special CBI court at Patiala on February 5, 2008, had convicted Nepali, Bhujel and Momin of their involvement in hijacking and awarded them life imprisonment.
However, the CBI had approached the High Court seeking death sentence for Momin, which the court rejected on grounds of his prolonged custody. Momin has been in jail since 1999 after he and Nepali were arrested in Mumbai during a probe into a bank robbery.
The High Court exonerated Nepali and Bhujel, but held them guilty under Section 25 of the Arms Act. Nepali was also asked to pay a fine of Rs 3,000 by the court. However, Nepali, who claims to be from a very poor background, was unable to pay the amount following which the inmates of Patiala Central jail pooled in money to pay the fine. A day after he was supposed to be released, Nepali walked out of jail after 14 years of imprisonment, saying he did not know who would compensate his time in jail. “During these 14 years, my parents died and my wife left me,” he said.
Bhujel, who was also exonerated along with Nepali, had been shifted to a jail in West Bengal in 2009.