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4 Jul, 2008 11:23

Russian woman returns from Nepalese jail

A Russian woman has been reunited with her loved ones after spending two years in appalling conditions in a Nepalese prison. Irina Rudikh went to the country five years ago as a pilgrim to practise Buddhism and yoga.

In 2006, Irina spent a week at a temple. Her cleaner was left in charge of her flat. A week later, the woman was found dead, and all Irina's belongings were gone. A court found the Russian pilgrim guilty of the murder and sentenced her to 21 years in prison.
An appeal was launched. Last Thursday, Irina’s lawyers won their appeal. The verdict was overturned and she was free.

Speaking to RT, Irina's mother, Ekaterina Shamak said: “My girl had to stay in a prison cell for two years with 15 others. The cell was full of rats and insects. The women didn't speak any language she could understand. And many tried to pick on Irina.”

Irina's lawyers have said that the prosecution didn't have any direct evidence connecting her to the crime. The witnesses have also testified Irina was at the temple at the time.

Irina claims certain individuals bribed the court to charge her. “These are rich people and very high up in society. And they even tried to kill me,” she says.

Russia's Foreign Ministry and media outlets have been defending her cause.

Omar Dzhemal, a correspondent for Russian Newsweek, shares the opinion that “Nepalese courts are very corrupt”. He thinks Irina’s sentence was unfair.

Her successful appeal is unusual for Nepal. In most cases there, sentences are cut by half at best – even if a person is innocent.

As Irina was freed, she only had to pay a fine for her expired visa.

Irina said that her faith and love for her relatives helped her survive the ordeal.