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12 diamond merchants home after two years in Chinese custody

Twelve Indian diamond merchants, who were released after their arrest in China for alleged smuggling two years ago, returned home early Friday, official sources said. They arrived around 2 a.m. and were greeted with hugs by anxious relatives and friends at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

Away from their near and dear ones for the past two years, these 12 are amongst the 22 who had been arrested by the Chinese customs at Shenzen in January 2010 for allegedly smuggling diamonds from Hongkong to China.

While nine were found guilty of the charges and convicted to serve jail terms by a Chinese court, the remaining 13 were released. The Chinese authorities have appealed against one of the 13 but it would take a few months for the appeal to be disposed of.

The remaining 12 were released and allowed to travel to India Thursday. Soon after arrival, relatives of some of the diamond merchants got into arguments and indulged in minor fisticuffs with some mediapersons who had also assembled there.

Later, the diamond merchants went to their respective homes, a few in Mumbai and the rest for Surat, the diamond hub in south Gujarat. Representatives of the Surat Diamond Merchants Association which had taken up their cause with the state and central governments were also present to receive their colleagues.

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