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India's top court frees Khalil Chishti after 20 years

13 December, 2012

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NEW DELHI: India's top court on Wednesday quashed the murder conviction of an 82-year-old Pakistani who spent 20 years in jail, allowing him to return home in a move likely to help diplomatic ties.

Khalil Chishti, a microbiologist, was arrested and charged with murder in 1992 after a brawl in the western Indian city of Ajmer which he was visiting for a family wedding. He was convicted in 2010 by a local court and given a life sentence. After freeing him on bail last year on account of his age, the Supreme Court quashed the murder charge but upheld a conviction for voluntarily causing hurt, the Press Trust of India reported.

"Truth has prevailed in the end," Chishti told AFP after the verdict, which ordered authorities to return his passport. "I will be going to my country after an endless wait." President Asif Ali Zardari had raised Chishti's case during his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this year.

The court's decision is a further boost to so-called "confidence-building measures" between the two countries and comes a day ahead of a visit to India by Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours, which have fought three wars since independence, have warmed over the last 18 months as they have focused on increasing trade and getting slow-moving peace negotiations back on track. At least 250 Pakistani nationals are being held in Indian jails, some for almost half a century. Last year, both countries released a number of prisoners as a "goodwill gesture".

End.

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