Muscat: Eight Omanis arrested for allegedly arranging to marry underage girls in India last year have spoken for the first time, and say they just want to be allowed to return home.
Most of the Omani citizens say they are “medical tourists” who have been “wrongly accused” of crime.
The eight accused were arrested in September 2017.
An Indian court has adjourned their hearing until April. Oman’s Human Rights Commission has been actively involved in the case, pursuing Indian authorities in an attempt to resolve the case, while the Omani government has funded a hotel for the men.
A commission statement said they were helping to ease “the suffering” of those detained.
Talib Al Salhi, one of the accused, claimed that he was a medical tourist and had not tried to marry underage girls in India.
“I have six children back home with an Omani wife. I came to India for an eye operation. But the Indian police raided us and confiscated our phones and passports for four days. They also took us to the police station.
“I have travelled to India before as well. I had a surgery performed on my left eye in India. I have the evidence for that in the form of medical bills and other documents. However, spending time in jail has worsened the condition of my eyes.”
Other accused Omani citizens also repeated the claim that they were medical tourists. Many of them already have Indian wives.
Another accused, Yasir Al Adwani, said that he had been arrested along with his brother when they went for his brother’s treatment. He added that while his sibling was allowed to go home, he is still in India, facing charges of marrying an underage girl, which he denies.
“I came with my brother who is disabled and wheelchair-ridden. We were both arrested but I did not get back my passport and I’m still here in India, while my brother has returned to Oman. I have three children from an Indian wife whom I married seven years ago. My wife is in Oman,” Yasir added.
Hassan Al Qasmi, another citizen, said he already had an Indian wife, and also insisted that he had come to India for medical treatment.
“I came to India for an operation of the urinary tract. I have 16 kids, six from my Indian wife whom I married 15 years ago. She has already applied for Omani citizenship.”
Accused Mohammad Al Shiyadi’s son Salim bin Mohammed Al Shiyadi insisted that allegations against his father were baseless.
Another accused Nasser Al Salhi said that he had come to India to repair his dental implant, adding that it was follow-up treatment in India.
Habib Al Mayahi also pleaded innocence and said that he had come to India for medical purposes.
Mohammad Al Siyabi said: “My father had permission to seek treatment for his illness and nothing else. So, that’s what he did. My father Suleiman Al Shiyadi went to India for a leg treatment. My father was denied permission to marry by Indian authorities.
“He was told he was in India on a medical visa and therefore could not get married,” Mohammad said.
The Oman Human Rights Commission (OHRC) said that they had been offering all possible help including financial assistance to the eight Omanis.
Vice-Chairman of the Oman Human Rights Commission, Yousuf Al Afifi, said: “The Omani nationals accused in India were out on bail and are living in a hotel. The Commission is still communicating with the authorities in India to finish their trial and resolve the case.” Oman Human Rights Commission said in a recent report that they had done their best to help Oman nationals facing trial in India.
“The Commission has followed up the case of Omani detainees in India accused of marrying under-age girls. The committee has provided material assistance to relatives of Omani detainees in India to help reduce their suffering.
“As a result of the efforts of the authorities concerned, the eight detainees were released on bail in November 2017. It is hoped that they will be tried soon,” the report said.
Meanwhile, families of the accused said that they were eagerly awaiting their loved ones.
Salim Al Shiyadi, son of Mohamed Al Shiyadi, an accused, said that he was concerned for his father’s health.
“The physical and psychological health of my father and his colleagues has been getting worse. Although they were released from prison, they are not allowed to return to Oman which is causing them distress.
“The Omani Human Rights Commission is in constant contact with us to discuss and resolve the case.”
India’s ambassador to Oman Indramani Pandey said that he could not comment on the case as the matter was sub-judice.
However, the ambassador added that the Indian embassy had always advised Indians in Oman and vice-versa to abide by the laws of the land.
“The matter referred to is sub-judice in India and the Embassy cannot comment. Ministry of External Affairs of India has rendered all requisite assistance.
The people of India and Oman enjoy an excellent relationship which is evident in extensive people-to-people contacts,” the Indian ambassador added.