HOME AT LAST: Naushad, with his family at his residence at Thadikkad, near Kollam, on Thursday.
KOLLAM : It was providential homecoming for Puthenveettil Abdul Latheef Naushad when he returned to Thadikkad, near Anchal, in Kollam district, along with his wife, Shuhaila, and children shortly before 11.30 a.m. on Thursday.
Mr. Naushad joined his family on Thursday after a tension-ridden three-year imprisonment in Saudi Arabia. He was sentenced by a Sharia court there to have his eye gouged out as punishment for causing permanent loss of vision to a Saudi national Naif Al Otaibi, in a scuffle.
Talking to mediapersons, Mr. Naushad expressed gratitude to the King of Saudi Arabia, the Union Government and Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, the media and Punalur MLA P. S. Supal.
He said he had not got the opportunity to personally meet and thank Mr. Otaibi.
Mr. Naushad said in prison, he was worried about the course of the case. "Initially, I did not inform my family members about the imprisonment and sentence for fear of shattering their hopes. All along, I was under the impression that I would be pardoned. But when things began to get indefinitely delayed, my friends advised me to take the issue to the media." He said he had not deliberately attacked Mr. Otaibi. "I acted in self-defence when he assaulted me."
Asked whether he would be permitted to return to Saudi Arabia, Mr. Naushad said the Saudi Government had barred him from entering the country. But this was in the larger interests of his safety, he said.
Mr. Naushad said as of now, he had decided to stay at home for the next two years to overcome the trauma. He would later look for a job in another Gulf country.
Our Thiruvananthapuram Staff Reporter writes
Mr. Naushad arrived to an emotional welcome from family and friends at the Thiruvananthapuram international airport. He walked out of the terminal clutching his three-year-old daughter Asna who he was seeing for the first time. He was flanked by his five-year-old son, Nasif and wife Shuhaila. Mr. Naushad addressed newspersons in a highly emotional tone. He said he was grateful to all those who had helped secure the pardon from the Saudi Arabian Government. An airport official said the group led by the Chief Minister waited near the Customs check-post for Mr. Naushad’s arrival. The Gulf Air flight from Mascot landed at 7.20 a.m.
According to the official, the family huddled together and wept for nearly two minutes. "It was a highly emotional moment for all of us who witnessed the reunion," the official said.
Mr. Chandy shook hands with Mr. Naushad and said he was fortunate. The Saudi Arabian Government rarely gave public pardons, he reportedly said.
Mr. Naushad thanked the Chief Minister for supporting the efforts to secure his release, the official said. Talking to newspersons, the Chief Minister said Mr. Naushad’s safe return was a happy occasion for all Keralites. He said the Government would extend all possible help to his family.