‘My mother was going through hell when I was in jail’

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Photo: Feroze Babu

On the scenic island of Pizhala in Ernakulam, Jancy Manuel, 54, was probably the happiest person last week. On 24 July, she had spoken to her youngest son Shiju Thomas after he was released from prison in Abu Dhabi.

“I thank everyone for helping us get justice for my son,” she says. “Finally, my son could prove his innocence. He was released after spending a month and six days in jail.”

Last December, Jancy dreamt of a comfortable life when Thomas got a job with Giffin Graphics in Abu Dhabi as a fabricator. Thomas had gone to Abu Dhabi so that he could repay the 1.5 lakh loan taken for his sister’s wedding. But he had to rush back after his father’s death in May. Manuel was a fish vendor who used to traverse the backwaters in his boat and sell the catch of the day. On 30 May, the boat sank in the backwaters. A polio-stricken Manuel, 64, could not swim to safety.

When Thomas was in Kerala, he got a call from his colleague Rinoy in Abu Dhabi. Rinoy wanted him to carry a parcel from his friend Amal George for his cousin who was working in Abu Dhabi. Shiju agreed to carry the parcel as he was travelling with minimum luggage. When Thomas arrived at Abu Dhabi on 18 June, police found 0.135 grams of LSD in his bag and arrested him.

“We wanted to kill Amal George for trapping my brother,” says Joshy Sebastian. “When we consulted the local elders, they advised us to stay calm and identify him. We filed a complaint in the Aluva Police Station.”

Meanwhile, Rinoy returned to Kerala and confronted George. George confessed to his role in the drug trafficking and revealed how he had concealed the LSD stamps inside the parcel. Rinoy used his mobile phone to secretly record their conversation and handed the evidence to the police. On 22 June, Geroge was nabbed.

“My son is innocent,” says Jancy. “He obliged his friend who asked him to carry a parcel. He had no idea what he was carrying. I could not sleep or eat for more than a month because my son was suffering in jail for no fault of his. Now, god has heard my prayers.”

According to George, he had sent the LSD stamps to his cousin Sarang, who is working as an accountant in Abu Dhabi and is one of the links in the drug supply chain.

His statement reads: “Two years ago, Sarang introduced me to Muhammed Saad. A couple of months ago, Sarang told me to collect a packet from Saad. When I asked him about the contents, he told me about the LSD stamps and asked me to handle it with care. In May, Saad handed over 10 stamps. Saad and I used one stamp and I kept the rest of them at home. I thought of sending them to my friend Rinoy, who was my classmate and working in Abu Dhabi. When I called Rinoy, he told me that his company does not allow him to receive parcels at his workplace. Later, he told me that his friend Shiju Thomas was in Kerala and would be returning on 18 June. I contacted Shiju Thomas and requested him to carry the packet.”

Meanwhile, the police arrested Saad, 27, an electronics engineer and a popular DJ in the Kochi party circuit. It was Saad who procured the LSD for Sarang. In his statement recorded by the Aluva East Police, Saad confessed that he is a drug addict and used LSD occasionally.

His statement reads: “In March, my classmate Sarang called me from Abu Dhabi and asked me about the chances of getting LSD in Kerala. Sarang and I had used LSD when we visited Goa for a study tour. I told him that it was difficult to procure the material in Kerala. Then I remembered Arjun whom I had met during a DJ programme in Kochi. Arjun told me that he knew someone who can provide LSD. Later, Arjun told me that a guy called Ansar Aboobaker had the stuff and was demanding 1,500 per LSD stamp. Sarang transferred 15,000 to my bank account for 10 stamps. When I informed Arjun that the money was ready, he asked me to come to a hotel near the Cochin University campus. There, Ansar and Arjun passed on the stamps. Later I met Amal at Sarang’s house and gave him the 10 stamps. We shared one stamp. Amal told me that he would send the stuff across either by post or through someone.”

After returning from Saudi Arabia in 2013, Aboobaker, the son of a local Congress leader, visited Mumbai where his wife was staying. En route, he met a German tourist in Goa who sold him 10 lsd stamps for Rs 1,500.

His statement reads: “I didn’t use the LSD stamps, but kept them in my bag. When I returned to Kerala, I told my friends that I wanted to sell them. One day, my friend Arjun told me that he had a buyer in mind. Days later, I met Arjun and Saad at a hotel and they gave me Rs 10,000 for the stamps. When I was arrested, I came to know that Saad had sold them to Sarang for Rs 16,000.”

After the arrest of George, Saad and Aboobaker, the police put pressure on Sarang’s family to bring him back from Abu Dhabi. On 17 July, Sarang returned and surrendered. He is now in judicial custody. “When I received the complaint, I directed the police to conduct a detailed probe and nab the real culprits who trapped Shiju in the drug trafficking network,” says Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. “I met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and sought her intervention. My government has done whatever possible to help Shiju.”

Fearing that members of the drug syndicate in Abu Dhabi are tailing him after his release from prison, Thomas has shifted to the Indian Embassy for now. “I wanted to visit Kerala and see my mother,” he says. “She was going through hell when I was in jail. She will be happy only when she sees me in person.”

Now, Pizhala village is waiting for Thomas’ return. The poor villagers had fought for him to get justice. For them, his return from death row is an occasion for celebration.

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Bureau Chief, South

Jeemon Jacob has been a journalist for 26 years both in print and television, as of 2011. He was a Reuters Fellow and spent nine months in Oxford University as visiting scholar in 1994-95. He has headed the political bureau in New Delhi of the Rashtra Deepika group of publications and later joined News Express in Brunei Darussalam as Features Editor. He won the Statesman award for rural reporting in 1987 for his seven articles that exposed a brown sugar racket in Kumily, Kerala.

In 1990, he won the state award for best reporting and in 1992, his article on social alienation of people with HIV/AIDS won the prestigious PUCL Award for human rights reporting in 1992. Jeemon is a graduate in English Literature and Journalism and has exposed the corruption behind the DMK government’s allotting prime land to high court judges, senior civil servants, and the kith and kin of politicians under the government’s discretionary quota. He is based in Thiruvananthapuram.

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