Indian walks free after 30 years in Pakistan jail

Teary Surjeet Singh meets family at border

An Indian man freed after spending three decades in a Pakistani prison for spying walked across the border Thursday into India where he was met by family and hordes of reporters.

"I met my children after 30 years in my country. This is happiness," said Surjeet Singh, 69, who was captured in Pakistan's eastern border areas in the 1980s and handed a death sentence after being convicted on spying charges.

Singh, who was welcomed by Indian officials after walking over the Wagah border crossing in Punjab state, said he had been well treated during his long term of imprisonment.

Pakistani media had originally reported that the person being released was Sarabjit Singh, a high-profile prisoner who has spent two decades in solitary confinement on death row in Lahore after being convicted for his role in a string of bombings.

Sarabjit Singh's family has campaigned steadily for his release, claiming he is an innocent farmer from Indian Punjab who crossed the border by mistake.

Surjeet Singh told reporters he had met with Sarabjit several times.

"He is allowed to meet other prisoners once a week. He looks healthy but he doesn't say much," he said.

Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna on Thursday said it was time for Sarabjit to be set free.

"I welcome this decision (on Surjeet) and further renew our request to the president of Pakistan to release Sarabjit who has been in custody for well over two decades and is serving a death sentence," Krishna said.

India released an 80-year-old Pakistani doctor last month on humanitarian grounds, after he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment following an 18-year-long trial.

In April 2011 Gopal Das, one of Pakistan's longest-serving Indian prisoners was released after Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari intervened in his case.

Upon his release, Das admitted he was an Indian spy and lashed out at the Indian authorities for abandoning him during his 23 years in jail.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since the division of the subcontinent in 1947, and came to the brink of another conflict as recently as 2002.

 

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