The Calicut international airport at Karipur witnessed scenes of an emotional reunion on Wednesday afternoon when three Malayali fishermen returned home after spending nine months in an Iranian jail with bare minimum facilities.

For Abdulla Koya, Mohammed Kasim, and Kuttiyammuvinte Purakkal Koya, the homecoming was dreamlike. “Alhamdu Lillah (Thank God). We never expected that we would be able to make it,” they said when received by Education Minister P.K. Abdu Rabb, Abdurahman Randathani, MLA, Mohammedunni Haji, MLA, former Minister K. Kutty Ahamed Kutty, and a host of civic officials and close relatives at the airport.

While Abdulla Koya hails from Parappanangadi, the other two are from Tanur. Tears welled up in their eyes as they hugged their relatives with shivering hands. They whimpered as they narrated their jail life in Iran, which was more squalid than they could imagine in their country.

They said they were caught by Iranian forces while working in Dhammam, Saudi Arabia.

They landed in an Iran jail for allegedly crossing the sea limits while fishing along with 16 Tamils.

For the first three months, the outside world had no idea about their whereabouts. Mr. Kasim said he was permitted to inform his brother about his incarceration only when they staged a day-long hunger protest.

They said they lived with a loaf of bread and water they got every day. The jail conditions were pathetic, they said.

They spent the nine months with the same clothes they had been wearing when they were caught. They were not given any uniform in jail. They got a T-shirt to change only when they landed in Mumbai on Tuesday.

They thanked the State government, particularly Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who had consoled them over phone when they landed in Mumbai.

It was the involvement of the government and people’s representatives which helped them secure their release from the jail.

Mr. Rabb and the MLAs offered them sweets at the airport. As they whimpered, Mr. Randathani was seen trying to furtively wipe a teardrop.

More In: Kerala | National