Montreal man on way home from Indian prison
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 | 10:03 AM ET
A Montreal businessman who lived in fear for 10 months in an Indian prison was free Wednesday morning, according to his son Dimitri, who spoke to him by phone.
The family now expects Saul Itzhayek, 42, to be home by Friday.
"He was jumping for joy, obviously," Dimitri said. "[It's] the greatest news that could possibly arrive."
Dimitri said his father spoke mostly with his mother.
"But I could hear the tears in his voice," he said.
"It's such a relief."
Itzhayek, 42, had been in Nepal on business when he was arrested in May 2007, and accused of entering India on an expired visa. He was sentenced to three years in prison in October in spite of his claim that he was entrapped by Indian police at the border.
Itzhayek's sister, Sylvia, said Wednesday he was headed in a car for Kathmandu, Nepal, with two Canadian consular officials.
"It's the fastest way to get him out of India," Sylvia had said on Tuesday.
Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier welcomed news of Itzhayek's release. His office said Canadian officials will ensure Itzhayek's trip home goes smoothly.
"We are pleased that justice has prevailed in India, and that Mr. Itzhayek is free to return to Canada," Bernier said in a written statement.
Itzhayek has always maintained he was entrapped by Indian police at the border with Nepal.
He said he sent his driver into India to pick up some money that was being wired to him. He said police stopped the driver at the border and seized documents that included Itzhayek's passport and visa.
Itzhayek has filed sworn statements that say Indian police offered him safe passage back into India to collect his documents, but instead arrested him for entering the country illegally.
He alleges he was asked to pay a bribe for his freedom.
His family has been extremely worried about his health while in prison.
"In the first three months of his incarceration, he lost 30 kilos. He suffered a prison riot, he [saw] this one murder. He's been contaminated by the water. He suffered food poisoning. He slept on the floor; he suffered rats and scorpions all around, sewage, he suffered a lot," Sylvia said.
"He's aged considerably, he's really aged."
Concern about his safety arose earlier in March after he narrowly avoided injury in a pair of explosions that rocked the prison where he has been held.
He had reportedly not left his cell since two bombs killed a local gangster. His family had feared he would be caught up in a prison gang war.
On Tuesday, his appeal on the charges was denied, but the court released him because of the time he had already spent in jail.
"I think the Canadian government played a key role [in his release]," Dimitri said.
"Because they vouched for him, it was what allowed him to be released."
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