Saudi diplomat accused of rape and torture withdrawn from India

The two Nepali women who told police they were raped by a Saudi official.
The two Nepali women who told police they were raped by a Saudi official.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - Saudi Arabia has withdrawn the diplomat accused of repeatedly raping and torturing two Nepali maids working at his home near New Delhi, ending an awkward diplomatic incident for India.

The case had caught India between Saudi Arabia, one of its largest oil suppliers, and Nepal, a small neighbour where it is battling with China for influence.

India took the unusual step of naming the diplomat Majed Hassan Ashoor, the first secretary at the Saudi embassy, in a statement late on Wednesday announcing his departure.

The statement said Ashoor was protected under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which grants diplomats immunity from arrest, criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits when they are posted overseas.

The incident posed a challenge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is due to make a rare visit to Saudi Arabia later this year. At the same time, he has made improving relations with neighbouring Nepal one of his top foreign policy priorities.

The Nepali women were rescued from the diplomat's apartment last week after a tip-off from a human trafficking group and the Nepalese embassy.

The women told police they were gang raped, assaulted and denied water and food while being held captive for several months. The women said they were raped by eight men on one occasion.

Both women came from remote rural parts of Nepal and were sent to Saudi Arabia as domestic servants by human traffickers before returning to New Delhi with their employer.

The Saudi Embassy did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment. In an earlier statement, the embassy said the allegations were false.

A police officer involved in the case said he is confident they will be able to track the other accused men because they have CCTV from the entrance of the apartment and will be able to track their mobile phones.