Indian filmmaker set for release from US jail

Pleaded no contest to misdemeanor weapons charge

NEW DELHI -- A Mumbai-based documentary filmmaker is finally set to be released from a Texas jail after pleading "no contest" to charges of illegally carrying brass knuckles in his luggage to avoid a lengthy trial.

Vijay Kumar, 40, was arrested at Houston airport Aug. 20 after being found carrying the prohibited item and "jihadist" literature. He pleaded no contest Wednesday to a misdemeanor weapons charge in exchange for time served, according to media reports. But Kumar said in an interview he was disappointed because "poor policies and a poor legal system" have kept him locked up without bail for nearly three weeks.

"He's just a victim of circumstance," Kumar's attorney Grant Scheiner was quoted stating. "They should have just dismissed the case once they found out he had relied on a Transportation Security Administration website," he explained, adding, “He'd even checked the TSA regulations on the Internet and was told it was OK to transport brass knuckles as long as they were in your checked-in bags.”

But as brass knuckles aren't legal in Texas, Kumar was charged with carrying a prohibited weapon. He was on his way to Vancouver, Canada, to attend a peace conference at the invitation of a Hindu organization.

The judge ordered his passport seized, federal authorities revoked his visa and then immigration authorities held him at Harris County jail for failure to have a passport.

"I don't think he ever wants to come back to America again," Scheiner added.

Kumar will be returned to federal detention where he is expected to be processed and "voluntarily deported" to India in the coming days.

"Because I am making a documentary on Jihadist terrorism, I have been doing the research on this subject for the last four or five years," Kumar told Houston's KTRK-TV explaining why was carrying books on Jihadism in his luggage.

"We Hindus are facing the same problems Americans are facing with the Jihadic people," he said. "So they should recognize us. If they harass us in their country what will the image of America become in my country?"

In August last year, while en route to Chicago, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan said he was “really hassled” after being detained and questioned at length at Newark airport, an incident which created an uproar here while receiving wide media coverage. Khan, who had just wrapped shooting in the U.S. for his film “My Name Is Khan” which revolved around a Muslim man's experience of being racially profiled in the U.S., was later released after authorities contacted the Indian consulate.
comments powered by Disqus