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China allows consular access to Indian duo on death row
June, 03rd 2008

A Chinese court has granted permission to Indian government officials to meet two Indians sentenced to death penalty for dealing in narcotics. Indian officials will meet them in prison in Zhuohai and explore possibilities of assisting them to seek a review of the cases by higher judiciary on June 6.

Askar Miyan and Hussain Mydeen, two Indians hailing from Tamil Nadu, were given death penalty in two different cases in August last year. They were granted a two-year reprieve before the death sentence is carried out giving them time till August 2009 to have their cases re-examined in China.

"We have received a letter from the High People's Court of Guangdong province permitting an Indian official to meet them on June 6," a source at the Indian consulate in Guangdong told TOI.

These may be the first two cases of death penalty given to Indians in China.

The court's decision to grant consular access will enable Indian officials to hear their side of the story first hand and determine the circumstances that led to the crimes. There are indications that Askar may have been misled by someone, who used him as a courier to move drugs from one place to another on the pretext of giving him a good job.

One of the issues that may be examined is whether Askar and Hussain could properly state their case in Chinese courts before conviction in the face of language barrier. It is not yet clear what kind of judicial support they were provided to state their case before conviction.

Askar's relatives took up the case with the Indian external affairs ministry, which helped to bring these cases to the attention of the government in New Delhi. But not enough information is available about the circumstances concerning Hussain.

Their fate hangs is balance. Death penalty is often changed to life imprisonment on the basis of appeals in Chinese courts. But life imprisonment literally means whole life and there may be few chances, if any, for a condemned prisoner to come out in free society. They will need very good defence in order to get a lighter sentence than life imprisonment, sources pointed out.

Aksar was detained by Chinese customs in February and Hussain in Guangzhou province in March last year. The Zhuohai court verdict in both the cases came in August last year.

Askar Miyan was accused of carrying 1,301 grams of heroin in his bag. Hussain Mydeen was found to have swallowed 38 pieces of heroin weighing 300.09 grams, which were recovered from his stomach at the Armed Police Hospital.

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