Jeddah, Feb. 25: Two Indian pilgrims who were arrested for bringing into Saudi Arabia 250 grams of khash khash, poppy seeds commonly used in Indian dishes, were released on Friday. Ausaf Sayeed, the Indian consul general in Jeddah, told Arab News on Friday that the two — Siraj Fareed Muhammad and his aunt, Hanifa Yousuf — were sent back to India on Friday evening. Sayeed thanked the Haj ministry and the Makkah governorate for viewing the case with sympathy and expediting their release. The travel formalities of the arrested pilgrims were completed on Wednesday.
As reported earlier, khash khash is as common as salt or pepper in India, but the two pilgrims from Gujarat discovered that the use of this specific poppy seed is forbidden in Saudi Arabia only when they were arrested on their arrival at the Jeddah airport on December 31. If cultivated, khash khash produces opium flowers (Papaver somniferum) whose sap is harvested to produce heroin. The case, which was first reported in Arab News, had shocked hundreds of expat families in the kingdom.