Wife battles for husband in jail sentence nightmare

The wife of a man who has been in prison for three and a half years longer than his five-year sentence for embezzlement has submitted a petition for his release.

Koonimookel Abdullah's wife is seeking his release.
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DUBAI // The wife of a man who has been in prison for three and a half years longer than his five-year sentence for embezzlement has submitted a petition for his release.

Kamarunisa Abdullah says she prays every day for her husband Koonimookel's release, and hopes he will join her in India to be introduced to the year-old twin grandsons he has never met.

Her petition was sent to the Indian Consulate yesterday, said K Kumar of the Indian Community Welfare Committee (ICWC). The Indian Consulate will review the petition before sending it to the court, Mr Kumar said.

Indian organisations including the Federation of Kerala College Alumni and the ICWC helped to arrange for Mrs Abdullah to come to Dubai this month to organise her plea.

Her husband, a 60-year-old former baker from Kerala, worked in Dubai as a watchman for 17 years before his arrest.

"I never dreamt I would meet my husband in a prison," Mrs Abdullah, 46, said by telephone from a small village in southern Kerala state. "I burst out crying when I saw him and he could not control himself either. I took lots of photos to show him. Our grandchildren turned one last month."

Mrs Abdullah's hopes for a favourable verdict may rest on a landmark judgment in May by the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance. It set a maximum of six months beyond the completion of their sentence that prisoners convicted of financial crimes may be kept in jail if they are unable to pay fines and penalties.

"Mr Abdullah has already served a sentence far in excess of his original term," Mr Kumar said.

Mr Kumar has recently helped to secure the release of five inmates who completed jail terms but could not raise blood money to pay for deaths caused in traffic or worksite accidents.

In her petition, Mrs Abdullah said her husband has served more than his sentence because he was unable to pay Dh325,000 to the court, half the amount that he and a Palestinian, MS, were convicted of embezzling in 2002.

Mrs Abdullah maintains that her husband was duped into the embezzlement scheme by MS, who was a court official entrusted with handling blood money and who lived in the apartment block where Mr Abdullah was a watchman.

She says MS gave her husband Dh500 as zakat, or alms, during Ramadan, and told him that wealthy Emiratis would give him more money during the holy month if he opened a special account.

Mrs Abdullah insists her husband was given only Dh1,500 in three instalments as zakat, a contribution to the less fortunate that is one of the five pillars of Islam.

"Since it was zakat money he did not think twice," Mrs Abdullah said. "He has never got any more money.

MS transferred Dh650,000 into the account in Mr Abdullah's name, then withdrew the funds and left the country. He was arrested at the airport when he returned to Dubai and remains in jail.

Mr Abdullah realised the truth only when he was arrested, his wife said.

She said she is now more hopeful of his release.

"I just want him to come back to us," she said. "We will find some job. We will manage."