Monday, November 29, 1999

Indians on death row in UAE: Appeal on May 19, kin pray

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Every Sunday, families of the 17 men on death row in the UAE receive calls from their sons currently lodged in jail. This Sunday held special significance - their appeal against the sentence is listed to be heard on Wednesday. The 17 men, most of them aged between 18 and 30, were sentenced to death by a Shariat court for the murder of a Pakistani national that took place in January last year.Jagdev Singh, a resident of Sanghera village in Barnala, whose son Sukhjot Singh is one of the 17, says, "My son sounded very hopeful today. He told us that many leaders from Punjab had come to meet them and assured them that the Indian government was doing everything to bring them back home."Sukhminder Kaur of Aitiana village near Raikot, whose nephew Daljit Singh's future too hangs in the balance, says, "God cannot be so unkind to us. In 1990, he took away Daljit's father from us and now he cannot repeat the tragedy."Daljit's mother Parminder Kaur had taken a loan of Rs 2.5 lakh to send her son to the UAE. He was arrested within 15 days of finding his first job in the Emirates. "Daljit has always maintained that he is innocent," says Sukhwinder Kaur, Daljit's masi (mother's sister)."My sister is very poor. She has just one buffalo and sells its milk to make her ends meet. Her younger son is 18 years old and is still studying. The responsibility of the entire family rests on Daljit, who himself is just 23 years old."Resident of Sanghera and Aitiana have organised path (prayer services) for the safe return of the boys.One of the boys, Sukhjinder Singh, has sent a message to his family that he will use his Sunday's call on Wednesday, and let them know what happened in the court.Blawant Singh Ramoowalia of the Lok Bhalai party says, "The Indian Embassy has hired lawyers to argue the case. We may not get the result on May 19 as it can take more than one hearing.But we must not spread false stories of torture; it may impact the case adversely."

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