x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Charity pays Dh2m blood money for Dubai driver pardoned for killing 10

A bus driver who caused an accident that killed 10 people and subsequently languished in jail for six years unable to pay the Dh2 million blood money bill is freed after charity intervenes.

Mr Al Rahman had been in the country only a year when the crash that changed his life occurred on December 14, 2006.
Mr Al Rahman had been in the country only a year when the crash that changed his life occurred on December 14, 2006.

DUBAI // Humayun Al Rahman had good reason to fear he would never taste freedom again.

Despite being pardoned four years ago for his part in a 2006 crash that killed 10 people, his chances of leaving jail and returning to his fiancee in Pakistan rested on his ability to pay blood money settlements worth Dh2 million.

Such an amount represented more than 90 years worth of the Dh1,800 monthly salary Mr Al Rahman, 30, was receiving as a bus driver before he was jailed.

But yesterday what seemed impossible came true, after the charity Dar Al Ber cleared his debts and those of five others owing blood money, who had also overstayed their sentences.

While Mr Al Rahman's situation was not unique, it seemed the most hopeless as his debt was by far the biggest.

"People used to come and go and I was the oldest one overstaying a sentence because of blood money," he said. "I lost all hope.

"In the beginning I hoped I would be released soon, then I thought maybe after 10 years. In the end I started thinking maybe never."

Latifa bin Khadem, head of the care section at the Dubai Central Prison, agreed Mr Al Rahman's case was the most challenging.

"The amount was very big and it was difficult to find a donor for such a big amount," Ms bin Khadem said. "But we never gave up hope and tried all means until we were able to make his dream come true."

Mr Al Rahman said that when the charity stepped forward on August 18 to tell him it would intervene, he fainted from shock.

"I just could not believe it. I got dizzy and fell to the floor," he said.

Even then, having spent so long inside, he wondered whether his dream would come true.

The first person Mr Al Rahman spoke to after hearing the news was his sick mother, whom he feared he would never see again.

"The donors handed me a mobile and asked me to call her to deliver the happy news," he said. "When she found out she did nothing but cry and say 'thank God'."

Since then, his mother has been growing impatient.

"The wait over the last 17 or so days was the worst," Mr Al Rahman said. "My mother was starting to think that I lied to her to make her feel better and stronger but officials are assuring me that I will soon leave."

Prison authorities say he should be freed within the next 10 days as the paperwork is finalised.

Mr Al Rahman had been in the country only a year when the crash that changed his life occurred on December 14, 2006.

He was driving labourers from Jebel Ali to Al Warqa when he tried to overtake another bus on Sheikh Zayed Road but lost control.

His vehicle broke through the traffic barrier, veered on to the other side of the road and hit a minibus travelling in the opposite direction.

When Mr Al Rahman awoke there was a helicopter flying above him and the magnitude of what had happened dawned on him.

The crash killed 10 people and injured 50. He was jailed and ordered to pay Dh200,000 for each person who died. He was pardoned in 2008, but the blood money was a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

The fiancee he had left behind in Pakistan stood by him through his ordeal and promised to wait for him while he served what appeared to be an interminable jail sentence.

Now her wait is soon to end. The charity has pledged to help him finance his marriage to the 24-year-old and has given him Dh10,000 as a gift for his mother

"The first thing I want to do when I get back home is to go with my mother to Haj and then get married on my return," Mr Al Rahman said.

The six years since the accident were "the worst of my life", but he had come to accept what happened.

"I am sorry for all the people's lives that were lost but this is destiny," Mr Al Rahman said. "It was destiny that they died and I did not, and it was destiny to spend these six years in prison."

Another pressing plan he has when he arrives back in Pakistan is to visit the family of one of the people who died in the accident. He found out while in prison that they live in a nearby village.

There are still 10 inmates overstaying their sentences in Dubai jails. They owe a total of Dh1.9m, but authorities say they have the means to pay.

wissa@thenational.ae