x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Sharia procedure to decide verdict of hunting trip killers

Qasama is way of adjudicating on first degree murder charges when there are only strong suspicions that the defendant committed the crime.

ABU DHABI // The verdict of two Emiratis facing the death penalty for shooting an Omani during a hunting trip will be decided by the Sharia procedure of ‘Qasama’, the appeals court has ruled.

Qasama is way of adjudicating on first degree murder charges when there are only strong suspicions that the defendant committed the crime.

“But these suspicions do not reach the level of sufficient evidence,” explained the judge.

During Qasama, the victim’s heirs are asked to swear a religious oath a total of 50 times that they believe the defendant killed the victim.

They also have the choice of reverting the Qasama back to the defendant and making them take the oath 50 times that they did not commit it.

If they decline from either option then the case is dropped.

“Qasama happens when there is “lawth” (strong suspicion) in a murder,’ said the appeal court judge on Monday.

“For instance if the accused was found with a weapon in his hand and victim’s blood on his clothes but there were no witnesses or sufficient evidence that he committed the murder, just suspicions that he did.”

The judge further explained that there are three ways of upholding murder charges – the confession of the killer, witnesses to the crime or Qasama.

The 50 oaths are divided among the victim’s heirs. If there is only one heir then that person swears it 50 times.

The Qasama is held during a regular public court session and there are certain phrasings for the oath.

“If the heirs are present and ready by the next session then we will hold the Qasama right then and then book a date for the verdict,” said the judge.

The criminal court had previously convicted two of the defendants, cousins ND and MD and sentenced them to death. A third cousin, HD, was cleared of the murder.

As with all death sentences in the UAE, an automatic appeal was lodged at both the appeals court and the cassation court.

The case arose from a hunting trip in the Omani desert in January last year.

The defendants had taken their Toyota Land Cruiser to a remote part of the desert when a Toyota Hilux carrying Omani passengers began chasing them.

The passengers in the Hilux threw rocks at the Land Cruiser before one of them fired a pistol in the air.

The Emirati cousins fired a warning shot back at the Omanis. However, the shot hit one of the passengers in the head, killing him instantly.

The men in the Hilux denied they had a gun but admitted to hitting the Land Cruiser with rocks.

The criminal court also ordered the Land Cruiser be confiscated, while a a compensation law suit was referred to the civil court.

hdajani@thenational.ae