New Delhi: A 54-year-old American military veteran, who was arrested and convicted for inadvertently crossing over to India from Nepal in 2018, is languishing in prison in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, despite the court granting him bail, as he has been unable to arrange a bailor for himself.
David Doohyun Kyung was arrested by the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), which guards the India-Nepal border, at the Khauna border post, Madhubani, at 8 pm on the night of 19 March 2018 after he was found to be on Indian territory without having valid visa papers. The FIR in the case was lodged the next day after he was handed over to Basopatti police station, Madhubani. Among the items that were found in his possession were a US passport, a DAVPRM (Disabled Veteran Permanent), Department of Defense, US government ID card issued on 29 January 2018, apart from US, Korean and Nepali currency.
As per the FIR in the case, he was apprehended by the SSB through a “chance encounter”. Kyung’s statement before the SSB, which he wrote in his own handwriting, accessed by The Sunday Guardian, states that since it was dark that he lost direction. “It was dark, I lost direction. I was in a farming village. I drank a pod of water. I strongly believed that the village was in Nepal, that’s why I didn’t ask. Later, Indian soldiers told me that the farming village is an Indian village. Darkness makes a human being totally confused. I was confused, embarrassed, emotionally retreat and depressed and finally, this situation happened. I am comfortable here, a peaceful and beautiful Indian rural town.”
The documents recovered from him by the SSB included a boarding pass of flight number KE 995 that flies from Seoul to Kathmandu dated 12 March. His Nepal visa was issued on 20 February 2018 and was valid until 9 June 2018. Originally a resident of South Korea, Kyung became a citizen of the United States and as per his passport, he is staying at 24, Byxbee Street, San Francisco, California, 94132. The Sunday Guardian has independently verified with publicly available records that Kyung does stay in the above address.
During his trial, after he accepted that he did something wrong by coming to the Indian side without papers, he was convicted for five years by a Madhubani court in September 2018, after which he was sent to the Central jail, Muzaffarpur. In August 2019, the court granted him bail, but despite that he is still in prison as he is yet to get someone who can stand as his bailor. Kyung’s condition was first noticed by Muzaffarpur-based lawyer Dr Subodh Kumar Jha, who has so far spent more than Rs 50,000 from his own pocket to help Kyung by way of writing letters to his address in San Francisco, to the local administration in San Francisco, filing petitions for him in the State Human Rights Commission which has now issued notices to the District Magistrates of Madhubani, Muzaffarpur and prison officials on what the government intends to do in case of David Kyung as he has not been able to come out despite being given bail. The matter has been listed for 23 November.
“Even the officials know that he inadvertently crossed over to the Indian side as there is clear demarcation and locals keep moving from India to Nepal and vice-versa. He was broken when he was told that he was given a prison sentence of five years. I am trying whatever I can to ensure justice for him as he has already got bail. At this age, he should not be staying in prison, but reunited with his family members,” Jha told The Sunday Guardian. This is not the first such case Jha has been working on without any pecuniary benefits. Earlier, he helped a Nigerian and a Bangladeshi woman who, too, were jailed in similar circumstances.