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After Years in Prison, Cameroonian to Walk Free

 

New Delhi, 25th April 2017: A Cameroonian national who was kept in Rajasthan jail for 16 months after completing his sentence is finally being released and is scheduled to go home tomorrow.

The projected release of 45 year old Sergelain Alain Betegue marks the culmination of joint efforts between the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, Government of Rajasthan and the Cameroonian Government along with Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), a leading international human rights organization based in India. An Emergency Travel Certificate has finally been issued for enabling him to fly home and air tickets have been booked by his family.

‘You have given me a second life’ says Betegue who was convicted in 2015 for committing forgery. He had spent three years before that undergoing trial.

“I want to thank all the people who have done a lot for Alain and for their time” said Marie, his sister. “My experience was terrible because I didn’t know it was so difficult to handle a case in India but I think that is how we have to deal with a situation. Learn every day and be careful with what you are doing in life” she added.

This case throws light on the challenges before the justice system, particularly for those who have served their sentence but still await release. Prison statistics show that there were 6185 foreign prisoners lodged in India as on 31st December 2015. Ninety percent of this figure belongs to five countries: Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Nigeria and Pakistan. The number of those kept detained despite serving their sentence is not revealed by the government. However, CHRI’s experience of working on such cases is a reflection of the large number of prisoners who await freedom. This is the second such case in the past four months where CHRI has successfully intervened to secure release and repatriation of an overstaying foreign prisoner. Solma Begum, a mentally ill Bangladeshi woman was repatriated to her family on 23rd January.

Mrinal Sharma, Project Officer with the Access to Justice (Prison Reform) Programme, who handled the case for CHRI says, “The system has sufficient time from the date of conviction to the date of release to make arrangements for the return of a foreign prisoner. However, this rarely happens”

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