DUBAI // The former owner of a fumigation company that caused the deaths of two baby boys in Ajman has begged their family for forgiveness from his hospital bed where he is critically ill from cancer.
The five-month-old brothers, Suhail and Ali Bakari, died after Abdul Rahman Yousuf Ali's company fumigated a neighbour's apartment in March 2010. Their triplet sister, Hala, survived after several days in hospital.
Mr Ali, 53, and two of his employees were all sentenced to four years in prison after being found guilty of causing the deaths. They were released in October after paying Dh400,000 blood money - Dh200,000 for each of the boys.
A few weeks after his he left prison, Mr Ali was diagnosed with tongue cancer.
Speaking from his hospital bed in Cochin, Kerala, with the assistance of his daughter, Mr Ali said he had tried hard when he was in jail to contact the father of the children so that he could apologise.
"I asked my relatives to approach the children's father and say sorry, but we could not trace him. I want to say to him I am really sorry for the deaths," he said.
"I came to know about the deaths only after I was arrested and taken to jail.
“I was thinking that the children might have developed a skin allergy when police took me into custody for questioning. I was totally shattered when I heard that they had died.”
He said he still cannot understand how the tragedy occurred. “Whether it was the workers’ fault or due to centralised AC system in the building, I don’t know,” he said. “I trained my workers well and told them about the safety measures to be followed.”
He said the chemicals he used in the apartment were approved by the Government and were not illegal.
“I’ve been using the same chemicals to spray in the flats to kill bed bugs for the past seven years,” he said. “They were allowed by the Government and I never faced any problems. It is the first time that this kind of incident has happened.”
Following an appeal, the prison sentences were reduced to six months, but Mr Ali remained in prison because he could not afford to pay the blood money.
All three men were eventually released in October after the Indian Community Welfare Committee helped raise the blood money. The committee paid half the amount while friends and relatives of Mr Ali raised the other half.
Mr Ali was diagnosed with tongue cancer soon after and his daughter, Mehanah Yousuf Ali, said he was in a critical condition.
“He is in an advanced stage of cancer and cannot eat properly,” she said. “Doctors say his condition is deteriorating. We are devastated. The entire family is suffering. When my father had the pesticide company, we were somehow able to overcome the financial difficulties. Now we are completely broke.”
Mr Ali’s brother, Rahman Kabeer, said everyone in the family is praying for a quick recovery.
“The infection is spreading fast and his health is going down, but we are praying that he becomes better soon,” he said.
El Hassan Bakari, the father of the two dead babies, said he does not hate the men who caused the death of his children.
“I wish him [Mr Ali] a speedy recovery,” Mr Bakari said. “I don’t like other people to suffer – not even my enemy. I do not wish death for anyone. I hope he gets back to health fast and leads a normal life.”
As a Muslim, Mr Bakari said, he believes in God and destiny. “It’s not my family alone that suffered because of the incident. Even their family lost a lot. My prayers are with their family.”
He said Government and policymakers should review the registration of pesticide companies operating in the UAE and ensure they do not break the rules.
“The Government should see to it that no toxic materials are imported into the country that would endanger the health of people,” he said.
Mr Bakari said his daughter is doing fine, and celebrated her second birthday on October 19.