Son of PE businessman freed from Saudi prison after a year, sister still jailed

2017-01-12 14:25
Shah Waseeullah is welcomed back in Port Elizabeth by family members. (Werner Hills, Netwerk24)

Shah Waseeullah is welcomed back in Port Elizabeth by family members. (Werner Hills, Netwerk24)

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Port Elizabeth - After more than a year in a Saudi Arabian prison the third of four siblings from a Port Elizabeth family has been released, Netwerk24 reported.  

The Desai siblings were arrested in Medina on November 22, 2015, and held in the Zhahbãn prison. Two sisters, 30-year-old Huda and Yumna, 24, were both university lecturers. Their brothers Shah Waseeullah, 25, and 28-year-old Shah Waliyullah were university students at the time. 

Waliyullah and Huda were freed in October last year after 321 days and deported to South Africa.

Waseeullah was freed on Monday after being held for a year and two months. He arrived in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.  

"To this day I don't know why our children were arrested," their father businessman Nazier Desai said at the Port Elizabeth International Airport after welcoming his son back. 

Also waiting to welcome Waseeullah back was a large number of people from the Muslim community. Each of them wore a white scarf with the word "Freedom" on it. 

'Two weeks quickly changed to a year'

A loud cheer erupted as he walked into the airport's arrivals area.

"I thought I'd be released after a week or so because they had no reason to hold us," he said, shaking his head. 

"But two weeks quickly changed to a year. And my sister [Yumna] should have been on the plane with me, but she's still behind bars."  

The sibling's mother Hafsa was once again in Saudi Arabia for the past three weeks to plead for her children's release.

Visitors are only allowed to see prisoners once a month. 

"Fortunately the king was lenient and allowed four visits. We could unfortunately only get one of our remaining children released," a heartbroken Nazier said. 

He said there was no indication yet of when and if Yumna would be freed.

Grateful for support

"They are not saying anything about her, which I find strange. For 40 years my children and I didn't have any problems entering or leaving Saudi Arabia.  

"We would like answers, but it is more important now to get Yumna home." 

Huda is also very concerned about her sister.

"My sister is a young and petite woman. Life in that prison is indescribable." 

Huda says the one good thing that's come from the media coverage of the story is that Yumna has been given a clean set of clothes and linen. 

"We are very grateful for the support of all South Africans, but especially the people from PE. 

"Because of the pressure from South Africa, the Saudi government knows it is being watched.

"Perhaps they will send my sister back with more than just a set of clothes. I was sent home without any of my possessions or money." 

Read more on:    saudi arabia  |  port elizabeth  |  jail

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