London: 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 today.
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".