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Indian deported from Saudi after acquittal in murder case

Dubai: An Indian, who spent almost nine years in jail in Saudi Arabia in connection with the murder of a Pakistani worker, has been deported to India after he was acquitted of the charges.

Abdul Rahman Punnoth, who hails from Kozhikode, was acquitted by a Riyadh court. He was deported yesterday. Punnoth was working as labourer in Riyadh since 2003. Sabir Khan, who was a watchman at the warehouse of the company's store, was found dead on April 2006, Saudi Gazette reported.

Punnoth visited Khan along with some Bangladeshi nationals who wanted to purchase waste material from the warehouse, apparently without the knowledge of the warehouse owner.

When Punnoth reached the warehouse next day, he found Khan dead and reported this to the company management and police. He was later arrested. Punnoth was sentenced to four years in prison and 400 lashes in 2010 after he was convicted of his connivance in stealing scrap cables by the Bangladeshi nationals.

Haroon Rasheed Kalamiyah, a Bangladeshi national, who was sentenced to five years in jail and 600 lashes, is currently serving jail term, while other three Bangladeshis are reportedly absconding.

Muneeb Pazhoor, a representative of Riyadh Indian Fraternity Forum (IFF), has been following up the case for the last five years and he has approached the concerned authorities several times. Riyadh governorate's intervention facilitated the deportation of Punnoth after the court found him not guilty of Khan's murder, the report said.

Pazhoor said IFF contacted Sabir Khan's family members in Pakistan several times but failed to secure a power of attorney to the embassy of Pakistan so that it could not appear in the court, representing the victim.

"This delayed court procedures, but the court finally issued verdict after adjourning the sittings several times earlier. Exit procedures were finalised after Punnoth's sponsor gave the clearance, and Afzal Vettathur, a relative of Punnoth, produced travel ticket," Pazhoor said.

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