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Crane operator wins release after additional year in jail

Lawyer and aid workers confirm a blood money settlement has been reached, securing the man's release.

Pays blood money with help of Indian community group

Ramola Talwar Badam

Dubai // An Indian crane operator arrested two years ago for a worksite accident that killed his Pakistani employer was due to be released from jail last night after the victim's family accepted a blood money settlement.

A court confirmation stating the legal heirs received the money has been sent to the prosecutor's office, paving the way for the release of Gurmail Singh.

"A Dubai court letter specifying that the blood money amount has been paid and there are no pending claims has been sent to the Dubai Public Prosecution," said Singh's lawyer Vinod Verma. "They will now direct jail authorities for his release."

The accident happened on a Jebel Ali worksite in May 2007 when an extra boom attached to a crane operated by Singh fell and crushed the owner of the company. 

Singh, 38, was arrested in June 2009 and sentenced to six months in prison for causing the death. He has served a year more than his original sentence because he was unable to pay the blood money required. A safety engineer also held responsible for the accident was granted bail, but he has not been permitted to leave the emirate until the settlement is made.

"All the formalities are complete from our side," said K Kumar, the chairman of the Indian Community Welfare Committee (ICWC), an aid group that helped secure his release. "We don't want him to be in jail for one extra day."

Singh is the ninth inmate to be released over the past year due to the ICWC's efforts. His is one of 13 accident cases identified by the group last year where deaths were caused without premeditation, and prisoners had completed their terms but could not raise the required blood money. 

There are 1,710 Indians in UAE jails, according to Indian government figures. 

For Singh, a resident of Durgapur in northern India, his greatest fear was that he would be forgotten. 

"No one asked about my case, no one knew about it, who would remember me?" he said in a telephone call from prison. "I have never been to jail before this, I never had any police record. Who can afford so much money?"

He worked in Muscat as a crane operator for three years before finding a job in Dubai, where he worked for a year before the accident.

The payment of blood money and a fine totalling Dh206,000 was equally divided between Singh and the safety engineer. The engineer's company paid Dh103,000 as his share of the settlement. Two of Singh's friends pitched in with Dh5,000 towards his Dh25,000 final settlement reached after negotiations with the victim's family, Mr Kumar said.

"Gurmail has a small house in the village and he even wanted to sell that to pay part of the settlement," Mr Kumar said. "But these are sums these men can't even dream of."

The travel ban imposed on the safety engineer, whose passport had been impounded by the court, has also been lifted. "He was in severe depression because he could not visit his parents," Mr Kumar said. "Now after three years he can finally go home to his family."


Letter praises ICWC, page a19

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