Surjeet Singh freed after 3 decades in Pakistan prison

NEW DELHI Thu Jun 28, 2012 6:21pm IST

A police official escorts Indian prisoner Surjeet Singh (L) at Wagah border before crossing into India after his release from the Kotlakhpat jail in Lahore June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

A police official escorts Indian prisoner Surjeet Singh (L) at Wagah border before crossing into India after his release from the Kotlakhpat jail in Lahore June 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mohsin Raza

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Surjeet Singh, an Indian who spent three decades in a Pakistan prison on spying charges, returned to India on Thursday after being released in Lahore.

Singh walked home a free man through Wagah, the main crossing on the border that links Lahore with Amritsar. Hundreds of people along with his wife and children gathered at the land border crossing in Punjab to receive him.

Television footage showed Singh, a turbaned man with a flowing white beard, waving as he arrived at Wagah. Family members garlanded him, fed him sweets and hugged Singh as he crossed over into India.

"I am meeting my children after 30 years and returning to my country so I am happy," Singh, said to be at least 69, told reporters at Wagah.

Earlier this week, there was confusion over the identity of the prisoner being released. Media reports said Sarabjit Singh, an Indian prisoner on death row in Pakistan, had been pardoned and would be freed. But Pakistan later clarified that Surjeet Singh was being released.

Singh said he first heard of his impending release on television and called for the release of prisoners held on both sides of the border.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna welcomed Singh's release and urged Pakistan to also free Sarabjit Singh and other Indians serving jail sentences in Pakistan prisons.

(Writing by Tony Tharakan)

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