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Indian prisoner's family thanks Zardari for release

March 28, 2011 17:54 IST

In a telephonic conversation with rediff.com, Anand Vir, brother of 52-year-old Gopal Das, whose release after 27 years in Pakistani prisons was announced by Islamabad on Sunday, said the family is happy about his release, although they have yet to hear of it from the Pakistan government.

"He is the youngest among five siblings in our family. He had gone to Anandpur in Jammu in 1984 to meet our material uncle. We don't know how he crossed over to the Pakistani side in Ranbir Singh Pura sector where my sister lives. He was caught by the Pakistani Rangers and charged with collecting information. A wireless set was planted on him," Anand said over phone from Chandigarh.

The family first came to know about his arrest six months later, when they received a letter from him from Multan jail. "He wrote that he was not sure if he would ever return to India. He was then shifted to Mianwali Jail, and at present he is lodged at Kotlakhpat Jail in Lahore," he said.

"We are indebted to Pakistan President Asif Zardari who facilitated his release. We thank all those who have helped in securing his return, including the media. So far we have no information as to when he would cross over from Wagah border. Of course, we plan to celebrate his return," he said. He expressed his deep gratitude to his lawyer Arvind Kumar Singh who raised the matter in the Supreme Court.

"We have been pursuing the case since 2008, and we filed 32 writ petitions in the apex court. In three years we had nearly 20 hearings. In one of the hearings the government admitted in 2010 that Gopal was an Indian national. The court said it cannot direct the Pakistan government to release the prisoner as it did not have any jurisdiction there," he said.

"But we appealed to the Pakistan government to release Gopal on humanitarian grounds. He is not married, and our parents had passed away soon after his arrest. We don't care if his release is a result of cricket diplomacy or not. We are happy that our efforts have paid off," added Arvind.

Onkar Singh in New Delhi