Sharjah killers' appeal delayed again

The court cites lack of competent Arabic-Punjabi translator for third postponement of 17 Indian men's case.

SHARJAH // The Sharjah Appeals Court has, for a third time, postponed the case of 17 Indian workers sentenced to death for killing a Pakistani man. The court cited the lack of an acceptable translator and the absence in court of the accused. Though the Indian Consulate in Dubai found an Arabic-Punjabi translator, the court had passed responsibility for finding a translator to prosecutors and the Ministry of Justice at last month's second hearing.

The court postponed the case to September 1, choosing to wait for them to provide one. Presiding over the case for the second time in the absence of the head of the three-judge panel, Judge Abdullah al Shamsi was surprised to find that none of the accused had turned up. He read their names out three times but there was no response. The chief judge, Younus al Redha, is on holiday. "I got a call from the men saying that no arrangements had been made to bring them to court," said Bindu Suresh Chettur, the lawyer appointed by the Indian Consulate in Dubai to represent the defendants. "I understand that is because the prosecutor was unable to arrange for a translator in time."

The last hearing featured two translators supplied by the defence, one from Arabic to another language and another from that language to Punjabi. The court rejected them both on the basis that legal translations could not go through more than two languages. Should their convictions be upheld, the defendants will not be able to serve their sentences in their own country under an agreement signed by India and the UAE earlier this month, Ms Chettur said.

She added that there have been no arrangements to offer blood money by the victim's family or for them to accept it. The case, which has drawn international publicity, has come to the attention of a former UK member of parliament. Parmjit Singh Gill, who is of Indian origin, attended yesterday's hearing and told reporters he would lobby for British government intervention. "I am planning to have a meeting with the British foreign secretary on the case," he said. "Before this, I need to gather all the facts."

Doing so was not just a matter of politicising the case, he said, adding that any death sentence involving such a large number of people had to attract attention.