x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Indian government seeks consular access to 17 sentenced to death

The men were convicted in a Sharjah court on Sunday of killing a Pakistani man in a brawl.

DUBAI // The Indian government wants consular access to 17 men who were sentenced to death in Sharjah for killing a Pakistani man in a drunken clash of bootlegger gangs. Vayalar Ravi, the Indian minister for overseas Indian affairs, said yesterday he was shocked by the news and has asked for information on the case from the Indian mission in the UAE.

"We will definitely provide all assistance to these men," Mr Ravi said by telephone from the state of Kerala. He said consular access would be the first step: "I have already contacted the consulate in Dubai and asked for information on this." The next step, he said, "is to get in touch with these men and look at ways to help them". The Sharjah Sharia Court of First Instance found the men guilty on Sunday of beating the Pakistani to death and wounding three others when a fight involving dozens of people broke out in the Sajja Industrial area in January of last year.

The court said the men were part of a "bootleg" gang. "Since they have been charged of being involved in illegal activities," Mr Ravi said, "we will have to wait for the case details before the government can say anything." Court officials said after the verdict that it was the largest number of defendants sentenced to death at one time in Sharjah. The case is being monitored by the Indian government as well as media outlets in the republic.

According to the federal penal code, a sentence of death goes to appeal automatically. Mr Ravi said the men would be provided with assistance for their appeals. The minister is responsible for the affairs of all overseas-based Indians. The Indian consulate in Dubai said yesterday that following media reports, it has sought consular access to the men and was "seeking more details, including a copy of the judgement on the 17 Indians sentenced to death".

A panel of judges ruled on Sunday that the 17 men, aged 22 to 30, had all played a part in killing the Pakistani by beating him with metal bars. The verdict is seen as a strong message to bootleggers. pmenon@thenational.ae