December 27, 2017 / 6:00 AM / 24 days ago

India says Pakistan mistreated visiting wife of convicted spy, seized her shoes

NEW DELHI, ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - India denounced Pakistan on Tuesday over the treatment of the family of an Indian man sentenced to death for spying, saying they had been harassed during a visit, a charge Pakistan called “baseless”.

Among other things, the Indian government accused the Pakistani authorities of refusing to return the shoes of the visiting wife of Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav after she turned them over to security for the visit.

Jadhav, a former officer in the Indian navy, was arrested in March 2016 in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, where there has been a long-running conflict between security forces and separatists, and he was convicted of planning espionage and sabotage.

His wife and mother were allowed to see him behind a glass window on Monday, eight months after he was sentenced to death, but that gesture of goodwill appeared to have quickly descended into acrimony.

Ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours are in a deep chill and Jadhav’s case has added to long-running tensions, with each accusing the other of supporting cross-border violence.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said Jadhav’s family had been subjected to harassment when they arrived to see him.

“The Pakistani press was allowed on multiple occasions to approach family members closely, harass and hector them and hurl false and loaded accusations about (Shri) Jadhav,” Kumar said in a statement.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry rejected the accusations.

“The Indian baseless allegations and twists ... about the visit of the wife and mother of Commander Jadhav, a convicted terrorist and spy, who has confessed to his crimes, are categorically rejected,” it said.

Former Indian navy officer Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav's mother Avanti (2nd L) and wife, Chetankul, (2nd R) arrive to meet him at Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, Pakistan December 25, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

The Pakistani statement added that it had kept both Pakistani, Indian and international media “at a safe distance, as requested by India”.

CONFESSION

Pakistan authorities say Jadhav confessed to being assigned by India’s intelligence service to plan, coordinate and organise espionage and sabotage activities in Baluchistan “aiming to destabilise and wage war against Pakistan”.

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India says Jadhav is innocent, and it won an injunction from the World Court to delay his execution, arguing he was denied diplomatic assistance during his trial by a military court.

On Monday, Pakistan released a picture of Jadhav’s mother, Avanti, and wife, Chetankul, seated at a desk and speaking to him from behind the glass partition. Islamabad said it had honoured its commitment to give access to the family.

But India said Jadhav’s mother was not allowed to speak in her native Marathi language and was frequently interrupted during the meeting.

Kumar said the two women had been asked to remove the red dot that Hindus wear as well as their jewellery and shoes during security screenings, adding that Pakistani authorities had refused to return the shoes that Jadhav’s wife had worn.

The Pakistani foreign ministry rebuttal did not address the report of the missing shoes.

India and Pakistan often accuse each other of spying, and several people have been held in prisons for years in both countries, some on death row, to be used as bargaining chips in their troubled relationship.

Additional reporting by Kay Johnson in ISLAMABAD; Editing by Nick Macfie, Gareth Jones and Hugh Lawson

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