Durban - A KwaZulu-Natal nurse spent four days in an Indian prison as a suspected terrorist after airport police found a live bullet in her luggage.
Isra Devi Lutchman, 62, left for India last week hoping to have a wonderful holiday.
However, it turned into a nightmare when she was arrested on arrival in Delhi, on a flight from Dubai, on February 19.
She was held at the Rohini district jail in Delhi, before being released on bail at the weekend.
A relative, who did not want to be named, said Lutchman told them soon after her release that the prison system in India left a lot to be desired.
She said she had been fed one slice of bread a day while in jail and had been detained in a cell with other female offenders.
She was also not allowed to bath during her incarceration.
The relative said Lutchman was traumatised by her arrest.
“She was not given an opportunity to defend herself. She knew nothing about the bullet,” the relative said.
“She was just hauled off to jail and only gave a statement to police when an Indian advocate - Asim Al - was appointed.”
The relative said they were trying to secure the help of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) to facilitate Lutchman’s return home.
Lutchman is staying at a hotel in Delhi awaiting the arrival of her family.
The relative confirmed that family members were urgently arranging travel documents to fly to India to be with her.
Dirco spokesman, Clayson Monyela, said when a South African national was arrested overseas, they were notified. By yesterday, they had still not been alerted to Lutchman’s arrest.
A nurse at the cardiac unit of St Anne’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg for 24 years, Lutchman was travelling with her sister and brother-in-law.
Staff at the Indira Gandhi International Airport found a single 9mm bullet in her luggage and Lutchman was charged with contravening India’s Arms Act.
The mother of two spent four days in prison before being released on bail.
She was not allowed any contact with her sister or brother-in-law while in prison.
Lutchman cannot leave India until the matter has been finalised.
She has now been flagged as a suspected terrorist and placed on a “no fly list” by Indian authorities, who confiscated her passport.
Her advocate is expected to make an application on Friday to have the charge withdrawn.
Her family said they were shocked and angered by what had happened to Lutchman, described as “a pillar of the community”.
“She is… (a) woman who helps save lives for a living. She posed no threat to anyone,” said a relative who requested anonymity. “To just throw her into a foreign prison like that is shocking.”
They are also trying to figure out how the bullet came to be in Lutchman’s suitcase.
While her husband is a licensed gun owner, another relative who owns a gun had used her bag on a trip earlier this year.
“This is all one huge misunderstanding,” the relative said.
Defence analyst and consultant, Helmoed Romer Heitman, said a 9mm bullet alone did not pose a threat to anyone.
Commenting on the arrest, he said it was “a little weird”.
“The arrest seems way over the top. I’m baffled. Unless when they found the bullet, she overreacted and they arrested her on principle,” he said.
“But generally customs would just toss it away.
“You can’t do anything with a single bullet.” - Daily News