A Dubai court has pardoned 17 Indian expatriates who were on death row in Sharjah for the January 2009 murder of a Pakistani man.
According to the court ruling, the 17 Indians have had their death sentences commuted through the pardon, but received a suspended two year prison sentence each. As they have already served more than the prescribed time in prison, they can walk free even today after completing all the legal formalities.
According to S P Singh Oberoi, the hotelier who has fought to secure their release, these 17 Indian expatriates could return home within ten days.
In July this year, Oberoi paid Rs 8 crore (3.43 million Dirhams) to a representative of a Pakistan-based family, whose sole bread winner was murdered in Sharjah in January 2009 by 17 Indian expatriates, including 16 from Punjab and one from Haryana.
The payment of the blood money was made to Zafar Iqbal, who represented the family of murdered Pakistani expatriate Misri Nazir Khan. Ramzan, an attorney, representing Khan's family, was also present at time of the delivery of the blood money in a Sharjah court of appeal.
Oberoi is the chairman of the 'Sarbat Dah Bhala', an organisation that has been at the forefront of a campaign to secure the release of the 17 Indian expatriates.
On receiving the blood money, Zafar Iqbal is said to have told the Sharjah court that he was waiving the death penalty on the imprisoned Indian expatriates aside as part of an out-of-court settlement.
According to a Sharia provision, if the penalty is paid to the relatives of the murdered victims, the death sentence can be waived aside.
The 17 Indians (16 from Punjab and one from Haryana) were found guilty in March 2010 for killing Misri Nazir Khan in the Saaja Industrial Area of Sharjah in January 2009.