R70 000 raised for KZN gran's release

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Copy of Spaga and wife Independent Newspapers OVERWHELMED: Spaga Lutchman eagerly awaits the arrival of his wife, Isra Devi, who was jailed at a New Delhi police station after airport security found a single bullet in her luggage. She is expected to return home on Wednesday, after R70 000 was raised yesterday to secure her release to South Africa. Picture: Shan Pillay

The Pietermaritzburg community has helped to secure thousands of rand for the release of jailed grandmother Isra Devi Lutchman in New Delhi.

After appearing in the New Delhi High Court yesterday, Lutchman, 62, a nurse at St Anne’s Hospital, was asked to pay R70 000 as “security” to be released from the country and return to Pietermaritzburg.

She is expected back on Wednesday.

Lutchman had flown to India two weeks ago on a family holiday, but was arrested by Delhi police at the Indira Gandhi International Airport and appeared in the New Delhi High Court on charges of possessing live ammunition – as a single 9mm bullet was discovered in her luggage. She was suspected of being a terrorist.

After four harrowing days in jail, without proper food and sanitation, she was granted bail of 0.5 lakh (R10 000) and confined to a hotel till yesterday.

Lutchman’s husband, Spaga, said a close friend provided the R70 000 security.

The support the family had been receiving from the community was overwhelming.

“More than 100 people a day keep coming to visit us; some of my family members are staying over as well. I wasn’t feeling very good and was a bit depressed, but the community has been so wonderful,” said Spaga, adding that he and his wife worked in the community helping others, and his wife would not do anything illegal.

He said the community, as well as his wife’s colleagues and friends at the hospital, had been praying and observing religious fasts for her safe return.

“People who we haven’t seen in more than two decades have come to lend their support.”

Lutchman’s son Colin, with two close family friends – Pietermaritzburg policeman Rumen Maistry and Pradeep Singh – left for India on Tuesday, at a cost of about R50 000, and have been with her since.

“It is comforting knowing my son is there helping her. They are all booked to fly back on Wednesday and we can’t wait for them to return. We will hold a prayer to give thanks for her safe return,” said Spaga.

While his wife had travelled around the world, and would likely want to continue travelling, he would not want her to return to India.

Lutchman was with her sister Rosheni Devi and brother-in-law Isri Bedassi, and the three had passed through security at King Shaka International and Dubai International airports without any problems. They were only stopped when they were boarding their flight from New Delhi to Chandrigah. While the family could not confirm how the bullet got into Lutchman’s luggage, it was believed it could have lodged in the bag when a relative, who owns a 9mm pistol, used the same bag on a hunting trip three weeks ago.

Independent on Saturday


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