Massive crowd-fund campaign raises ₹34 crore to save Kerala man on death row in Saudi Arabia | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Massive crowd-fund campaign raises 34 crore to save Kerala man on death row in Saudi Arabia

By, Kochi
Apr 13, 2024 04:19 AM IST

The man, sentenced to death for an accidental killing from 2006, is likely to be pardoned as “blood money” has been raised to save him from the gallows.

A man from Kerala who was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for a crime committed 18 years ago is likely to be pardoned after thousands of people rallied behind him and managed to do the unthinkable — collect over 34 crore in a massive crowd-funding campaign launched to raise so-called “blood money” to save him from the gallows.

Abdul Rahim
Abdul Rahim

The effort kicked off on March 15 to save the now 41-year-old Abdul Rahim, originally from Feroke in Kozhikode district of Kerala, who was on death row for killing a 15-year-old in Riyadh in 2006, people behind the fund-raising campaign said.

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Rahim, who was employed as a driver and full-time caretaker for the boy, caused the victim’s death by accidentally dislodging a pipe in the boy’s throat during an argument. By the time Rahim realised that the child had passed out due to lack of oxygen and rushed him to a hospital, the victim had died, the people cited above said.

He was sentenced in 2012, and appeals were filed against the verdict, but the death sentence was confirmed first in 2017 and then again in 2022. He was left with two options — face death by beheading, or somehow pay 34 crore to the victim’s family to be pardoned.

Several countries, particularly those in the Middle East, have a legal provision that allows the payment of “blood money” (known as Diya in Arabic) in the case of accidental deaths. Under this provision, if the accused (or their family/friends) pay a financial indemnity, they can be spared punishment if the heirs of the deceased accept the money.

The massive fund-raising effort that was launched to save him — it saw convergence of the global Malayali community — was spearheaded by a body called the Abdul Rahim Legal Assistance Committee Trust that was formed in 2021.

Members of the trust announced at a press conference on Friday that the target sum has been overshot, and asked people to halt donations.

“We have reached the goal of 34 crore needed to secure his release. Please do not send us any more money. We have raised 34.45 crore, and the excess funds will be audited and used for a good cause. The global Malayali community has once again done its magic and joined hands irrespective of our political, caste and religious differences. This is the real story of Kerala,” said trust member Ashraf Vengat.

He said that the trust will now contact the Indian embassy in Riyadh to take forward the process of reaching an understanding with the victim’s family and secure Rahim’s release. The sum will be handed over to the victim’s family as “blood money” in order to pardon Rahim days before the April 15 deadline to hand over the money.

Bobby Chemmanur, chairman of a jewellery chain who played a key role in the campaign, said that they raised around 32 crore in just the past week as an aggressive campaign was pushed via social media with the looming execution.

“I want to thank everyone for their contributions. When I took up the cause a week ago, the committee fighting for Rahim’s release had collected 2.4 crore. Even though we were tense at the beginning, we had faith Malayalis across the world would stand by us,” said Chemmanur, whose charitable organisation — Boche Fans Charitable Trust — launched lucky draw contests and tea powder sales to raise money. The businessman said he travelled across Kerala under what was dubbed as a “begging” drive to raise funds.

Various community organisations including charitable arms of political parties, local businessmen, social media influencers and expatriate outfits based in the Middle East were also part of the initiative. Malayali expat bodies in Riyadh, and Saudi Arabia, conducted “biryani challenges” to raise funds on the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr, said officials.

Rahim’s mother Pathu profusely thanked everyone who contributed.

“My prayers are with everyone who helped towards the release of my son. I am so thankful that I don’t even have words to express my gratitude. I just want to see my son as soon as possible now,” she said.

According to the committee officials, Rahim had gone to Saudi Arabia to work as a driver in 2006. Employed by a household in Riyadh as a driver, he was also engaged for caretaking duties of a 15-year-old boy who could only breathe with the help of medical assistance.

“On December 25, 2006, while Rahim and the child were travelling in a car, they had an argument during which he accidentally dislodged the pipe on his neck that supported the boy’s breathing… The court sentenced him for murder even though it was unintentional. He has been languishing in jail for 18 years,” Chemmanur said.

Kerala PWD minister PA Muhammad Riyas, who met Rahim’s mother after the crowd-funding goal was reached, said: “It’s remarkable how everyone across political, religious, caste, community lines came together for the initiative. There were concerns over the enormity of the challenge and whether such a massive amount of money can be raised. But we have proved that no money is big enough to counter our collective effort and humanity.”

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