Seventeen Indians, who had been on death row in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the murder of a Pakistani national, have been released after they paid blood money of $1 million (around Rs 5.3 crore) to the victim's family. They will reach India in the wee hours of Tuesday.
The convicts, including 16 men from Punjab and one from Haryana, spent nearly three years in Dubai jails after being sentenced to death in March 2010. They had been convicted of the murder of Pakistan's Misri Khan during a brawl over bootlegging in January 2009. Two persons, Mushtaq Ahmed and Shaheed Iqbal, had been injured in the clash.
Dubai-based Indian hotelier SP Singh Oberoi secured their release by depositing the blood money, which he collected through charity with the help of Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.
"We are taking the flight to India around midnight. We will first go to Amritsar to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple," said Oberoi, talking to HT on the phone from Dubai.
The 16 Punjabi men are Sukhjinder Singh, Sukhjot Singh, Ram Singh, Arvinder Singh, Baljeet Singh, Daljeet Singh, Dharampal Singh, Satgur Singh, Satnam Singh, Kashmir Singh, Suban Singh, Kulvinder Singh, Kuldeep Singh, Sukhjinder Singh, Namjyot Singh, Amrik Singh and Harjinder Singh; Taranjit Singh hails from Haryana. They had all gone to the UAE for labour jobs.
"It's a rebirth for us. We thank all those who contributed to our release. The support of the Indian authorities and Mr Oberoi has enabled us to walk free. Our families would never have been able to pay the huge amount of blood money," said one of the released men.
As per the Sharia law, a family member of the victim can pardon the accused if the latter pays the blood money. Oberoi collected the money from various sources in India and abroad and then deposited it in the court to reach a compromise with the victim's family.
After the death sentence was pronounced, the Indian government had appointed five lawyers to file an appeal. However, after giving their consent to blood money, Misri Khan's family had refused to accept it and said they wanted revenge.
The court and the Indian consulate, with the help of officials from the Pakistan embassy, persuaded the family of the deceased and two injured persons for accepting blood money and secured their release.