x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Swap agreement signing 'humane move for Indians in UAE prisons'

The UAE and India have signed an agreement that will allow expatriate prisoners from both countries to serve time in their homeland.

DUBAI // There are "hardly any" Emiratis in Indian jails who could benefit from the prisoner-swap deal agreed to by the two countries on Wednesday, says the state news agency Wam.

But there are two men who would be able to take advantage of the deal if they were found guilty of the crimes for which they have been charged by Indian authorities.

The Transfer of Sentenced Persons agreement, signed by Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Minister of Interior, and the Indian home minister P Chidambaram, allows convicted prisoners to complete their sentences in their homelands.

There are two Emiratis under arrest in India. Neither has been found guilty of any crime.

MG, 53, has been in Delhi's high-security Tihar Jail since 2007.

"He was arrested for assault and attempt to murder," said Rajnish Kwatra, the undersecretary for prison reforms at the Indian home ministry.

"He is under trial and has been charged with attempted murder, assault, extortion of property, wrongful confinement and insulting the modesty of a woman."

HM, 47, from Sharjah, was arrested in the southern city of Hyderabad in September. He was charged with marrying a minor.

"He was given bail with instructions not to leave the country as the case has not yet been finished," said B Sudarshan Reddy, the investigating officer.

The UAE has reportedly sought details on the charges against HM.

"There are hardly any UAE nationals in Indian jails - if any - and this agreement indicates a humane approach by the UAE authorities to expatriates," Wam reported.

Indian officials said there could be more Emiratis in Indian prisons but the exact figure could be confirmed only after UAE authorities "actively take up the cases of Emiratis in Indian jails", Mr Kwatra said.

"We are collecting details but the first initiative would have to be from the UAE," he said.

About 1,200 Indian nationals are in UAE jails, mostly for petty offences including the consumption and movement of alcohol.

Mr Kwatra said some of them could choose to complete their sentences in their homeland.

"It is voluntary and the prisoner should be ready to come back," he said. "Also, both countries should be willing to transport the prisoner."

The transfer treaty will include anyone sentenced for drug-related offences and murder.

"We generally refuse paedophiles, repeat offenders, serial killers and psychopaths," the official said, adding the treaty would also exclude those charged with terrorism or other security crimes.

"But the agreement should not be used by criminals [hoping] to lessen their time as they will serve the equivalent sentence in India," Mr Kwatra said.

pkannan@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by M A Fareed Rahman