Briton is released after seven years in jail in Kashmir jail

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The Independent Online

After seven years held without charge in an Indian jail, Chaudhary Aurangzeb entered the Heathrow arrivals hall, a small, earnest figure amid the cacophony of families greeting their relatives.

As one of the longest-serving British prisoners to be detained without charge, Mr Aurangzeb, 25, born and brought up in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, endured torture and imprisonment, all for the crime of straying across the Pakistani border and into the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, the divided Himalayan territory over which India and Pakistan have fought two border wars in 50 years.

His father, Aladad, did not live long enough to see his son freed and yesterday his mother, Sabra Bi, was too unwell to make the journey from their home in Manchester.

Mr Aurangzeb said yesterday: "I am very happy to come home after seven years. I am very happy to be back in England and see my family."

It was in April 1994 that the 18-year-old was on a holiday in Kashmir with his father when he crossed the border, either inadvertently or through teenage impulsiveness. Shortly after entering Indian-controlled territory, he was arrested and accused of being part of an armed gang.

For 17 months, as his family mourned what they thought was a dead son, Mr Aurangzeb was held in a detention centre, where he was beaten and electrocuted by guards. Later he was moved to Srinagar's central jail. His family eventually discovered he was alive, but were too fearful of arrest to be able to visit him.

Mr Aurangzeb was detained under the Foreigner Act, but never formally charged. In May this year, under pressure from the Foreign Office, a court in Srinagar finally heard his case and ordered his release to the British Embassy. Having recorded guilty pleas on the technical offence of crossing the border, the judge sentenced him to two years, time he had already more than served.

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