Saudi diplomat accused of rape in India claims immunity, files complaint

© Anindito Mukherjee
The Saudi diplomat in New Delhi who has been accused of holding two Nepalese women as sex slaves and gang-raping them has reportedly claimed diplomatic immunity and filed a report against local police for invading his private property.

The Saudi Embassy conveyed the diplomat’s complaint to Indian officials on Wednesday, sources told The Indian Express. The Saudis protested the invasion of diplomatic property and voiced concern that “unwarranted media briefings” on allegations had been held before a proper investigation had been carried out.

Indian authorities responded that police did not know the premises in the financial suburb of Gurgaon belonged to the Saudi diplomat when raiding the property to rescue two women. The suspect’s identity is known, but has not been disclosed. Police are said to have been informed about the sexual abuse by an NGO, Maiti Nepal India, which received a tip-off from a shocked newly-hired housemaid who ran away “within three days” of starting her job.

The claim is that the diplomat and his friends repeatedly raped two Nepali women, while his wife and daughter assisted in torturing them. The Saudi embassy in India has denied all the allegations, dismissing them as “completely false.”

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said it is awaiting a detailed police report before taking any further action. A special investigation team, headed by Gurgaon Police Commissioner Navdeep Singh Virk, has been formed.

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According to the 1961 Vienna Convention, to which India is a party, diplomatic immunity cannot be violated unless the diplomat’s country decides to waive it, making the chances of prosecution extremely unlikely.

Meanwhile, shocking details of the women’s ordeal has been reported to the Indian media, uncovering not only the alleged perverse practices of Saudi diplomats, but also a human trafficking ring capitalizing on the plight of the Nepalese women in the aftermath of the deadly April 2015 earthquake.

Raped by ‘7 to 8 men,’ threatened with death

A witness from the Lighthouse Foundation NGO, Tijaya Lama, said the two rescued women were wearing tattered clothes on their release, and were held with no fresh clothes or footwear at all.

Police stated that the victims were raped and assaulted for a period of four months at the diplomat’s home.

“The last four months were a curse for us. It was so ugly… we thought we were going to die in that house and our families would never even find our bodies,” one of the victims, a 20-year-old woman, was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

The second victim, a 44-year-old woman, revealed horrendous details of the time the two were held captive: “There were days when seven to eight men — all from Saudi Arabia — would assault us. If we resisted, the diplomat and his family would threaten to kill us and dispose of our bodies in the sewer.” 

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Other abuse included starvation, the women alleged. Moreover, they claimed the diplomat’s wife beat them.

“We were made to do all the household chores, from morning till late in the night, and then subjected to sexual assault at the end of the day. We were not given food. Sometimes we only survived on biscuits, bread and watery tea. We were never allowed to step out of the house,” one of the women said.

The two said they were also brought to other places across India, including Nainital and Agra, where, after being introduced to “guests,” they were also repeatedly sexually assaulted.

Scouting for women 

The victims were eventually rescued by security forces from an apartment on the fifth floor of the luxurious Ambience Island Caitriona residential area. They reportedly came to India after a woman in Nepal promised them well-paid jobs about half a year ago. 

One of the rescued women was a divorcee struggling to take care of her daughter, while the younger one was desperate need money of money after losing her house and trying to take care of her ill husband.

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A placement agency employee known as Anwar allegedly picked them from a list of 30 because of their skin color, police said. They were then reportedly “sold” to the Saudi diplomat.

“Both these women were promised salaries of up to 30,000 rupees ($450) a month working in Jeddah,” a police officer said.

A female recruiter known as Kalpana “would scout for women desperate for money and promise them jobs in India. We believe at least 28 other women were brought to India by Kalpana,” a source said.

The initial screening happened in small house in Gurgaon, where all the women were held. “After a couple of hours, [the two were] selected and promised jobs. The next day, they were asked to go to the Saudi Arabian diplomat’s house,” police said. 

According to police sources quoted by Hindustan Times, the victims are expected to be flown back to Nepal on Thursday.