x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Death row Indians' blood money settlement delayed again

Judge orders defence team, victim's representative to agree on a settlement by June 16 after Dh400,000 offer draws no decision.

SHARJAH // The fate of 17 Indian men who are on death row for killing a Pakistani Labourer remains unclear amid a disagreement over blood money.

A court hearing into the case was deferred yesterday after representatives of the condemned men and the family of the dead man, Misri Nazir Khan, who was murdered in a bootlegging turf war in Sharjah’s Al Saha’a labour camp in 2009, failed to agree on a settlement after a dramatic reduction in the amount of blood money being offered.

A previous offer of Dh5.5 million by the Indian social welfare organisation Sikhs for Justice Charity Trust has stalled. A new offer of Dh400,000 financed by the Indian hotelier and philanthropist SP Oberoi Singh was presented in front of court.

The defence lawyer Mohammed Salman asked the representative of the dead man’s family, Mohammed Ramzan, if the family would accept the latest offer, but Mr Ramzan declined, saying the family had become frustrated with the lack of clarity in the negotiations.

“We want revenge,” Mr Ramzan said after the hearing. “We will not accept the blood money. We will let the court case proceed instead of settling. Nobody is being upfront and clear.”

But he said the door was still open for a deal.

“If the 17 Indians or their families can convince Khan’s parents to forgive them and accept the blood money for the death of their son, then we are willing to accept the money on their behalf,” he said. “But his family only wants revenge.”

Mr Salman told the court there would be no further offers.

“Your honour, this is the last offer we have. If he wants to take it, fine. If he refuses, let us present our case,” he said.

Judge Yousif al Shamsi said a settlement needed to be made outside court and that this could not be enforced by the court. He adjourned the case until June 16.

Baljeet Singh, of the Sikhs for Justice Charity Trust, said yesterday that the previous offer of Dh5.5m fell through because the Indian consulate had not provided the proper documents.

“We presented Mr Ramzan with the offer after the last court hearing, and we are doing the payment out of our own accord, however we were not granted access to the men to provide us with a power of attorney letter to complete the transaction,” he said. “The consulate did not help us nor did the defence team representing them.”

A source in the Indian consulate denied that it had done anything to stand in the way of a settlement.

“Some ridiculous figures are being quoted in context of the 17 Indians’ case,” said the source, who asked not to be named but was speaking in an official capacity. “Certain individuals not connected with the case are using this as an opportunity to raise large sums of money. Such incredible amounts have no bearing on the case except that they give a false sense to the representatives of the deceased.”

In a separate statement, the consulate said lawyers appointed by the Indian government would continue defending the men, “pending any mutually acceptable understanding with the family of the deceased and acceptable to the court”.

“Safeguarding the interests of the 17 accused remains the paramount concern of the government of India. We are also fully cognisant of the options available to the accused within UAE’s system of jurisprudence,” the statement said. “A section of the Indian community is following this case with a keen interest and is in touch with the consulate in anticipation of an early resolution of this case.”

At the previous hearing, on April 28, Mr Ramzan told the court that the defence team had approached him the previous evening, and had asked him to sign a waiver dropping the family’s claim in exchange for a verbal offer of blood money.

The condemned men, 16 of whom are from the Punjab and one from Haryana, were sentenced to death in March 2010 by the Sharjah Criminal Court of First Instance.

Judge al Shamsi in February ordered a two-month adjournment of the case to allow the two sides to reach a compromise. He issued a similar order at the last hearing in April.

Family members of two of the condemned men travelled to the Emirates to meet them and attend the hearing. The family members hoped a settlement would be reached soon.

“I really wish this will be over quickly,” said Harbans Singh, the father of S?S. “We sent our son to the UAE so he could help the family overcome financial problems. But we never expected things to turn out this way.

“I will never send my children to work abroad again. We would rather struggle in India and remain poor. We are under so much tension and mental stress. We hope we can put this behind us soon.”

Butta Singh, the brother of KS, said he hoped Khan’s family would accept the blood money offer. “When I visited him in jail two days ago, I showed him pictures of his two daughters and he was very emotional when he saw them.

“My brother and I are the breadwinners of the family and now with him in jail, we are struggling to make ends meet.” 
The 17 Indians were convicted of the January 2009 murder of Khan. The victim was attacked with machetes, swords, pipes and wooden blocks.

amustafa@thenational.ae

pkannan@thenational.ae