x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Mercy for UAE inmate who lost a decade serving twice his sentence

Koonimookel Abdullah, a 61-year-old Indian security guard, who has spent ten years behind bars despite being sentenced to five years in jail, will be set free next week.

Indian watchman Koonimookel Abdullah will be released next week, five years after he completing his jail sentence.
Indian watchman Koonimookel Abdullah will be released next week, five years after he completing his jail sentence.

DUBAI // A security guard who completed his five-year jail term for embezzlement in 2007 will finally be freed next week.

Koonimookel Abdullah, 61, spent a decade in prison because he could not repay the Dh325,000 ordered as part of his sentence in 2002.

His release order was issued on Tuesday after the Ruler’s Court and Public Prosecution accepted his mercy petition.

“I was losing all hope but people kept telling me, ‘your time will come, be patient’,” Abdullah said. “I cried a lot when I was told by the jailer I was being released.”

The former baker’s family received the news with caution.

“Is this true? Are we hearing the correct news?” asked his daughter Roshna, from their village near Calicut, in southern Kerala.
“We are so happy but until I know that he is out of jail, I will be scared. Until he comes home, we will not be sure this is the truth.”

Kamarunisa, Abdullah’s wife, said her prayers had been answered.

“We have been praying for so many years,” she said. “All we want is to see him, for him to be with us.”

Abdullah was a watchman in Sharjah for 15 years before his arrest. He maintains he was duped by a court official, M?S, who lived in the apartment block where he worked. The trouble began in 2002 during Ramadan when he accepted Dh1,500 in three instalments as zakat, or alms, from the official, who was responsible for issuing diya, or blood money.

Abdullah said the official convinced him that wealthy Muslims donated money during the Holy Month and he would receive charity if he signed some papers.

He used the papers to open a bank account in Abdullah’s name and transferred Dh650,000 in unclaimed diya money from the court.

M?S withdrew the cash and left the country but on his return to Dubai he was convicted and jailed along with Abdullah.

The court sentenced them both and ordered each to pay half the amount taken.

Abdullah’s family maintained their belief in his innocence, claiming he must have been tricked because he cannot read or write and would not have been able to open a bank account.

Aid workers say many illiterate workers find themselves in similar situations.

The Indian Community Welfare Committee (ICWC) submitted a mercy petition two years ago and resubmitted a plea this year.

“We have been following this up every month and trying as hard as possible for Abdullah’s release,” said K Kumar, head of the ICWC. “We are extremely happy and thankful to the authorities for this. We are working on getting his travel documents and arranging an air ticket for his return home.”

Aid workers said that since Abdullah no longer has a valid visa, he would be deported after he was issued an “outpass”, a document that serves as a passport.

rtalwar@thenational.ae