RIYADH, Dec 21: The Indian ambassador to the Kingdom said yesterday that a non-Muslim Indian expatriate who strayed into the “Muslims Only” part of the holy city of Madinah earlier this week was never facing any stiff penalties for his trespass. His comments were made to clarify media reports in India that said the man faced a long prison sentence or even the death penalty for his alleged crime.
“It’s all fabricated stories and in fact Jojo was never tried or given the death penalty,” Indian Ambassador M.O.H. Farook told Arab News yesterday. “Rather he was released (on Tuesday) by the Saudi police.”
Police detained Jojo Joseph, a non-Muslim from the south Indian state of Kerala, early this week while he was traveling in a taxi within the area of the holy city near the Prophet’s Mosque that is reserved for Muslims. News of the arrest included claims that Joseph had been sentenced to death for the infraction.
Farook said that Joseph made “enough noise” about his arrest and told his family members that he could be beheaded. “In fact, Saudi authorities took a lenient view of the case after they were convinced that the man did not deliberately commit the mistake of entering into the holy city’s restricted areas,” said Farook.
There is no recorded incident where a non-Muslim was executed for entering restricted space in Madinah or Makkah. Authorities generally treat these violations in much the same way trespassing is dealt with. In cases where the violation seems accidental, authorities will simply escort the trespasser out of the prohibited zone.
Joseph was arrested and detained for three days after the taxi apparently took the wrong route and strayed into the prohibited zone of the city. The man was rushing to a hospital where his wife had given birth. Persons volunteering as morality enforcers spotted the man’s maroon work/residency visa (denoting the carrier is non-Muslim) and called police.
In his interview with Arab News, Farook also revealed details of his talks with Prince Salman, governor of Riyadh region, early this week.
“I renewed the invitation and requested the prince to visit India at an early date on his convenience,” said the ambassador.