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“Sponsored Honeymoon” ; Couple Stuck In Qatar Over Drug Charges

It has been 15 months since Kausar saw Oniba and her husband, as the young couple is imprisoned in Qatar over drug charges. Oniba and her husband Shareeq studied the Bachelor of Commerce course together at a local college. On April 19, 2018, the couple got married at a hall in the Crawford market area. Around July 2018, the stepsister of Shareeq’s father Tabassum came to reside in the same building. Soon, she started insisting on gifting the young couple a honeymoon abroad as a wedding present. Even though Shareeq denied the offer repeatedly, his aunt persisted and the young couple accepted.

Tabassum booked their hotel stay in Qatar, their travel tickets, and even the visa formalities were done by Tabassum. By the time it was July 2019 and Oniba had become pregnant. Shareeq said that he did not want to take Oniba with him as she was not feeling well and that since she was so insisting, he would go alone. However, Tabassum insisted that they go together.

“Just as the couple was leaving, Tabassum gave Shareeq a bag and asked him to keep their clothes in that bag. On July 5, 2019, the couple left for Bengaluru. In Bengaluru, Tabassum’s contact gave them one more bag. Shareeq was a little worried and so he called up Tabassum to enquire about the bag. She told him that there were some gutka and zarda in the bag and since these products were very costly in Qatar, he should take the bag with him and hand it to a contact she had given,” said Kausar.

The family started to worry for them when the couple did not inform them about their arrival. The phones that the two had carried with them were not reachable. Soon after, Kausar got a call from Qatar from a woman named Tehseen. Tehseen had been released from prison in Qatar and told the family that Oniba and her husband were in jail for drug charges. Shareeq’s father immediately took a flight to Qatar and met his son at the prison. He scolded him while Shareeq tried to convince him that he was innocent. Shareeq’s father came back and was later told that the local court in Qatar had convicted the couple for 10 years in prison.

The families went to the Indian embassy for help. Shareeq’s parents again went back to Qatar. This time the prison authorities passed them Shareeq’s phone and passport. Shareeq had mentioned to them that his call recordings on phone can prove that it was Tabassum who had given him the bags and that he did not know that packets of drugs had been stitched and concealed in the sides of the bags. Shareeq and Oniba’s parents heard the recordings and were convinced about their innocence. They decided to work towards getting the couple back. The family approached at least 14 departments from the Prime Minister’s office to the Ministry of External Affairs to the Narcotic Control Bureau.

The family then approached the Nagpada police station in their area and an FIR was registered. Mumbai Police immediately picked up Tabassum who kept denying her involvement until she was made to hear the crucial evidence, the call recordings. In December 2019, the Nagpada police arrested four people in connection with the case – Tabassum Riyaz Qureshi, Nizam Kara, Badshah Samad, and Yasin AbdulApart from the public prosecutor, the family also appointed their own lawyer so the accused do not go scot-free. However, the accused were granted bail last month.

For the last many months, between translating Marathi FIR into English and Arabic to translating Arabic orders of Qatar to English and Marathi, they keep praying and hoping that the Ministry of External Affairs along with the Narcotic Control Bureau will get their kids back.

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