UK team in UAE to support detained Indians
A group of Leicester-based human rights campaigners has flown to the UAE to support 17 Indians who have been sentenced to death for killing a Pakistani man.world Updated: Jul 14, 2010 20:21 IST
A group of Leicester-based human rights campaigners has flown to the UAE to support 17 Indians who have been sentenced to death for killing a Pakistani man.
The delegation from Sharjah Prisoners Justice Group has travelled to the Middle East state to attend an appeal court hearing for the 17 men in Dubai on Wednesday.
The men – all immigrants to the UAE from Punjab –were arrested following a fight in Sharjah in January last year in which a Pakistani man was killed. They were tried, convicted and sentenced to death.
Campaigners are concerned they did not get a fair trial, reports from Leicester say.
Groups, including Amnesty International and Lawyers For Human Rights, have said the 17 Indian men were allegedly tortured into making confessions. More than 5,000 people have signed a petition against the death sentences.
Public meetings have been held and MPs, including Leicester East's Keith Vaz and Harborough MP and Solicitor General Edward Garnier, have been lobbied to get the Foreign Office to help the men.
Sital Singh Gill, general secretary of Leicestershire Indian Workers' Association, is leading the delegation.
He said: "Our aim in going to the UAE is to support these men. It is our belief that at least the majority of them are innocent. We think they were arrested by the police simply because they were immigrant workers.
"They did not get a fair trial," Gill said while noting that the 17 Indians were given a local lawyer who did not speak their language and were not able to represent them.
Gill said they hoped to speak to the detainees, hire translators and legal representation and plead their case before government officials.
They also hope to meet representatives of the Indian High Commission in Dubai.
Leicester city councillor Parmjit Singh Gill and Kashmir Singh, an elder from the Sikh temple in East Park Road, are also part of the team.
The trip is being funded through donations from Sikh temples across Leicestershire.
Councillor Gill said: "Our objective is to get the full background to the case, first-hand. This will help us understand how the case is being handled, what has taken place and if the 17 have been given a fair and just trial.
"Also, we want to establish if they have been tortured during their detention and if any articles of the Sikh faith were desecrated at any point. Our belief is that whatever the outcome of the appeal these men should not be threatened with death."
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: "This is a mockery of justice. Amnesty International is calling on the UAE authorities to investigate the allegations of torture and abuse and to ensure the 17 men receive a fair trial on appeal"