KERALA

Plea to ensure Keralites' release from Iraqi jail

LONG WAIT: The family of M.K. Ashraf of Ambalappuzha North, who is in jail in Iraq.  



A. Harikumar

Family says Governments have failed to take any steps

ALAPPUZHA: The Union and State Governments have failed to take any effective step to secure the release of two Keralite drivers, M.K. Ashraf, a native of Ambalappuzha North panchayat in the district and Francis, a native of Thrissur district, who were arrested by Iraqi police more than a month ago, office bearers of World Malayali Council and family members of Mr. Ashraf have said.

Mr. Ashraf and Mr. Francis, drivers of Public Ware Housing Company, Kuwait, were arrested by Iraqi police when they entered Iraq for delivering equipment of the United States Army to their camps in Iraq alleging that they did not have proper documents for entering Iraq.

At a press conference here, council Kerala province president A. Shoukkath, treasurer Kamal M. Makkiyil and wife of Ashraf, Nazima said the Union and State Ministers had promised to secure the immediate release of the arrested to the family members. "But as far as our knowledge the Government had not taken any concrete step to get the arrested released," said Mr. Makkiyil.

The arrested were languishing in an Iraqi jail in Basra braving the harsh Iraqi winter without any protective gear, said Mrs Nazima. She said her husband, a chronic diabetic, was struggling to keep alive on the single frugal meal being provided by the jail authorities every day.Mr. Shoukkath said an Iraqi court had last week imposed a fine of $7000 each on the arrested and Mr. Ashraf and Mr. Francis would be released if they paid it. He said the poor families did not have the resources to pay the fine and it was for the Government to extend help.

Mr. Shoukkath criticised the attitude of Indian Embassy in Kuwait where the arrested were working. He further noted that the PWC company was not even answering to the queries of the family members.

Mrs. Nazima alleged that though she gave a memorandum to Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan when he visited Alappuzha, he seemed not much interested in the issue. Though Union Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed was attentive to the complaints of the family he also did not do anything worthwhile, said Mrs. Nazima.