updated 13 Dec 2010, 22:50
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Wed, Jan 27, 2010
The New Paper
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S'pore woman trapped in India jail might not live to see daughter
by Crystal Chan

SHE has not seen her daughter for almost 10 years.

The reason: She has been stuck in Mumbai, India, since November 2000, while her teenage daughter is in Singapore.

Now, Madam Zainab Yousuf, 47, a Singaporean, fears she may not have much time left to see her daughter Nisha because she has breast cancer.

She and her Japanese husband, Mr Tetsyo Hiryama, 62, were arrested at the city’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport after customs officials accused them of smuggling hashish, reported The Times of India.

Because of the huge backlog of cases in Mumbai, the couple’s trial began only in 2006, said their lawyer in India, Mr Ayaz Khan.

By then, Madam Zainab and Mr Hiryama had been in remand for six years.

They appealed against their 10-year jail sentence – but had to wait another three years before it was heard.

The appeals court acquitted the couple in January 2009 but they still cannot leave India because the customs office is appealing against the acquittal, reported The Times of India.

Meanwhile, Madam Zainab and Mr Hiryama are struggling to survive. They have been relying on handouts from friends and family in Singapore, said Mr Khan.

In a phone interview with The New Paper, Mr Khan, said: “India is a big country so it’s not surprising that the courts have many cases to complete.

“My clients were acquitted after it was found that they didn’t give a voluntary confession and the suitcase in which the drugs were found could not be traced to them.

“The sample of drugs was also found to be contaminated.”

Mr Khan said Madam Zainab and her husband travelled to India on tourist visas.

He said Madam Zainab was in the garment trade in Singapore but he did not have any details about her family other than the fact that she has a daughter here.

Madam Zainab was diagnosed with breast cancer while in prison. Said Mr Khan: “She has been suffering from cancer for at least three years after she discovered a lump in one of her breasts.”

He could not give more details of her condition.

Her friends and family are paying for her treatment in a private hospital, he said.

Mr Khan added that the couple live in a rented flat in Mumbai.

They still have their passports, but exit visas must be granted by the Indian government for them to leave the country.

For Madam Zainab and Mr Hiryama, the Bombay High Court’s decision last August to bar them from returning to Singapore has been an added blow.

Mr Khan said: “The court said my clients can’t leave India until the appeal is over.

As the appeal won’t be heard until at least 2012, it means they have to stay in India until then.

“But my clients are now in difficulty as they’re foreigners and the Indian government has refused to issue them work permits.”

On 11 Aug last year, Madam Zainab and Mr Hiryama went to the Bombay High Court to get the Foreigner’s Regional Registration Office to issue exit permits to them.


The state counsel then informed the court that the government had no objections in letting the couple leave India even though an appeal against their acquittal had been filed by the prosecution.

But, two days later, the Indian government changed its stand and said the couple had to remain in India, pending the prosecution’s appeal.

The court reprimanded the government for its indecision and ordered it to pay an interim compensation of 5,000 rupees ($150) to each of them, reported DNAIndia, an Indian news website.

The New Paper tried to speak to Madam Zainab but was told by Mr Khan that she was too emotionally distraught to speak.

She was quoted in DNAIndia as saying she was disappointed, but she had to obey the court’s order.

Madam Zainab was so sure she could return to Singapore after her acquittal that she called her daughter to tell her the good news, only to be crushed by the High Court’s decision.

She told DNAIndia: “I had informed my daughter in Singapore that I will see her soon. But I have not mustered the courage to tell her that my return has been postponed.”

On 6 Jan, Mr Khan sought a court order to get the Indian government to pay for his clients’ medical treatment and living expenses, based on their acquittal.

The matter is still pending.

Mr Khan said his clients want to leave India legally and would return for the latest appeal.

The court has asked the solicitor-general’s office to seek directions from the external affairs ministry on providing employment or accommodation to foreigners who have been acquitted but remain stuck in India because of the prosecution’s appeals.

Mr Khan said: “We’re trying to fight for some maintenance for Madam Zainab and her husband as their situation is taking its toll on their well-being.

“My clients are free people in the sense that they aren’t in prison. But they can’t get employment and they need money for medical treatment.

“Madam Zainab has cancer and Mr Hiryama is a frail gentleman who has eyesight and dental problems.”

DNAIndia reported that Madam Zainab would require a third operation as part of her cancer treatment.

“I am not well,” she told DNAIndia. “It is only my willpower that keeps me going.

“Even before the Supreme Court (sic), I want the case to be decided finally so that I can go home with a clear conscience and be free in the true sense of the word.”

This article was first published in The New Paper.

readers' comments
obviously the Singapore embassy in Mumbai or MFA can extend some sort of assistance here on humanitarian grounds... not stated in this report but surely MFA can at least arrange for the daughter to visit her mother in Mumbai. God bless the judicial system in India and their Singapore counterparts!!!
Posted by tongccs on Wed, 27 Jan 2010 at 14:06 PM
This is called as Bureaucratic Redtape and India is famous for it. When courts in India take more than 15 years to deliver judgement in even high profile cases like terrorist attacks, it is not surprising what happened to the poor lady. Truly sickening....
Posted by chandragupta on Wed, 27 Jan 2010 at 12:38 PM
sad story. don't ever trust an indian and never never commit any crime in india. what a pathetic country!
Posted by santefei on Wed, 27 Jan 2010 at 11:05 AM
Sigh ....
Sadly, I think our Govt adopts a non-interference policy when small fries are concerned. Don't expect our Govt to stick its necks out for any laymen of our country who get into serious trouble overseas.
Well, at least so far for about 50 yrs, we haven't had the chance to see our Govt in such action yet.
Posted by Songshus on Wed, 27 Jan 2010 at 10:34 AM
I guess our Sing Amb is busy cutting ribbons and attending high teas.
Posted by brianshah on Wed, 27 Jan 2010 at 10:31 AM
See, this is the right way the Romanian dog should be handled :-)
Posted by karl-heinz on Wed, 27 Jan 2010 at 10:26 AM
Where is the Singapore HC in all of this? If the woman has been acquitted, then the SHC should be vehemently protesting this illegal detainment.
Why does the daughter not go to India then. With so many budget airlines plying the route now a days, I am sure she could round up the funds to make a short trip there.

6 yrs is nothing. One guy was in jail for 38 years for a crime he committed in 1968. If he had got to court and gotten convicted immediately, he would had been in jail for only 10 years!!!
Posted by crazyazn on Wed, 27 Jan 2010 at 09:42 AM
This shows that there is no such thing as fairness, equality and justice in the world and SPG is no exception. It is a matter as to who is holding the authority and power. There are many Filipinos who are held in Malaysia indefinitely. The reasons are that there are too many backlog cases, not enough judges, amenities of courts, enforcement personnel, big country, lack of facilities (and other no sense reasons). You find similar trends in Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia. The UN Human Rights Org. should voice up. If the judicial departments cannot finish their homework on time, then the only alternative is to acquit all these cases and suspects. Afterall, it is only fair that you gather full proof of materials, witnesses that are beyond reasonable doubt to pin a person down. Prima facia and circumstancial evidences normally do not hold much water (50-50% theory.) Many a .....
Posted by mountaingoat on Wed, 27 Jan 2010 at 09:34 AM
This is ridiculous. Where is the help from local authorities?

.....prolly still busy looking for evidences to prove the romanian diplomat's innocence.....

6 yrs in jail with no conviction!
Posted by WhyUsoLikeThat on Wed, 27 Jan 2010 at 09:02 AM

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