Thimphu dzongkhag court sentenced four non –Bhutanese men, who were charged for kidnapping three Bhutanese from Gelephu in February 2016 to 23 years and six months each on December 28.

The men Birmal Basumatari, 29, Dilip Basumatari, 29, Jiwan Basumatari, 32, and Phakhan Narzari, 28, are from the neighbouring state of Chirang district, Assam.

They were found guilty of kidnapping three Bhutanese, a 16-year-year old student and a driver and caretaker of a piggery farm in Samtenling, Gelephu on the evening of February 22, 2016, illegal pointing of firearm, trespassing, extortion, battery, and harassment.

The men were sentenced to 12 years each for violating section 162 of the Penal Code of Bhutan 2004, which states, “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of kidnapping, if the defendant unlawfully removes another person from a place of abode or business or from a place where the person was present and unlawfully takes the person to another country.”

The offence is graded a second-degree felony.

They were sentenced to five years each in prison for illegal possession of firearms, as they were armed with locally made guns, knives and catapult while abducting the victims, who were feeding the pigs then.

The four men, who were dressed in camouflage trousers, took the three Bhutanese at gunpoint.

Birmal Basumatari, Dilip Basumatari, Jiwan Basumatari and Phakhan Narzari were sentenced to one year each for trespassing, which is a violation of section 237 of the Penal Code of Bhutan, which states, “A defendant is guilty of the offence of trespass, if the defendant intentionally enters or remains on others property or in a building, occupied structure, or separately secured or occupied portion of a building or structure with the knowledge that the defendant is not or no longer licensed or privileged to enter or remain thereto.”

They were sentenced to five years each for extortion, as they kept calling the piggery farm owner and his wife, who are the parents of the student, from Indian mobile numbers and took a ransom of Nu 2 million (M).

The men were also sentenced to three months each for battery, as they battered the student and the driver for not being able to walk fast while taking them away and when they kept shifting the locations and three months each for harassing the victims and the parents.

The men confessed to Gelephu police that they abducted the three people but contended before the court that the kidnapping was done by Kornale Basu and other friends, who are in custody of Chirang police and under trial in the Chirang district court, and that they only called from the numbers to ask for the ransom since Kornale Basumatari promised to share 25 percent of the ransom with them.

They also claimed they confessed to police because police tortured them.

The court stated that in accordance to section 87 of the Evidence Act of Bhutan, the court summoned the police officer of Gelephu for questioning but the defendants changed their claim and submitted that they confessed because they were scared that police would torture them.

The court ruled that the four men were trying to shift the blame to people who are under trial in India knowing court would not be able to summon them.

The attorney from Office of the Attorney General (OAG) also submitted the call recordings made by the defendants to the student’s family asking for ransom.

The piggery owner, who paid the ransom of Nu 2M got back Nu 963,000.

The court also ruled that Birmal Basumatari, Dilip Basumatari, Jiwan Basumatari and Phakhen Narzari should restitute the remaining amount within six months from the date the judgement was given according to section 46 of the Penal Code.

The defendants were arrested since March 2016.

Meanwhile, of the three victims, the speech-impaired caretaker was released the next day he was kidnapped but the student and the driver returned five days after they were kidnapped.

Tashi Dema