Refuting the allegation that Sohail Hughes, a British man, has been illegally lodged in a Bhopal prison, Madhya Pradesh police on Monday said the foreign national was arrested for violating visa conditions.
The Guardian newspaper carried a story quoting the 29-year-old’s sister that her brother had been illegally held in a prison for violating lockdown rules. The story claimed the Briton had been on an extended holiday to visit family in Gujarat and later came to Madhya Pradesh to undertake pilgrimage of mosques.
Hughes’ sister Aatika claimed Sohail had been forced to take refuge in a mosque in Bhopal after the swift implementation of lockdown. She said his passport and that of dozens of other men had been seized and they were quarantined in a hotel for more than a month despite repeatedly testing negative for Covid-19.
Additional DGP Upendra Jain said Sohail was one of the two Britons who were part of a 14-member Tablighi Jamaat found in a mosque on Shyamla Hill in Bhopal. The rest of the members were from Ivory Coast.
“Why did you go to a mosque if you were a tourist? You could have gone to someone’s home or a hotel,’’ Jain said refuting the allegation that the arrest was illegal. He said after getting instructions to trace the members of Tablighi Jamaat, the MP police had come across 32 different Jamaats (units) of which seven were foreign Jamaats.
The Indian associates of the foreign jamaatis were released but the foreign nationals were charged for violating tourist visa conditions because they engaged in religious activities. He said they were kept in quarantine to ensure that they don’t carry the infection to jails. While in quarantine, the jamaatis were in touch with their family members.
They were produced before a magistrate on May 15 who sent them to judicial custody. “Let them fight their case in the court,” the senior police officer said. When asked if the Briton and others had attended the congregation at Nizamuddin, he said the arrest was irrespective of their participation. He said he was not sure when exactly was the Briton arrested.
Quoting the newspaper report, Supreme Court lawyer Vivek Tankha on Sunday wrote to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The noted lawyer appealed to the CM and the DGP to withdraw the FIR and sought closure of the case. “Such arrests and investigations are a blot on our criminal justice system,” he said.
The story said Hughes, who lives in Dewsbury with his wife and three-year-old child, came to India in February and was due to return to the UK on May 13. It quoted correspondence between the family and the British High Commission with the latter expressing its inability “to interfere with legal processes in another country.”
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