Prisoners expected to be pardoned over Ramadan

Hundreds likely to be freed as goodwill and humanitarian gesture during the holy month and on other upcoming festive occasions.

ABU DHABI // The Government is expected to pardon hundreds of prisoners as a goodwill and humanitarian gesture during the holy month and on other upcoming festive occasions. Last year, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, granted an executive pardon to 808 Emirati and expatriate prisoners during Ramadan. He also instructed the settlement of prisoners' debts worth Dh3.43 million (US$930,000).

"It [clemency] has led to a significant decline in the prison population, particularly during Ramadan," said Col Ali Juma al Shamsi, the Ministry of Interior's deputy director general for Reformatory and Punitive Establishments. Clemency was granted after staff at federal prisons drew up a list of eligible inmates, which was then submitted to the attorney general for review, said Col Shamsi. In the case of local jails, the list is sent to the ruler of the emirate.

The pardons are granted for humanitarian reasons, but other factors are also taken into consideration including the nature of the crime, the length of the sentence, how much of a jail term has been served and good behaviour of the prisoner while incarcerated. Faith and nationality are not usually taken into account. Clemencies are also granted on other occasions, including Eid al Fitr, Eid al Adha and the UAE National Day.

In addition to those granted at the federal level, hundreds of prisoners received clemency last year from the rulers of the other emirates. During Ramadan, a number of good Samaritans usually came forward to pay the debts of those who were serving sentences for financial crimes, said Col Shamsi. The Ministry of Interior has a dedicated department to deal with prisoners who served their respective sentences and have been handed deportation orders. "We provide food, health care and transportation for all deportees," he said.

Each year, the UAE deports an average of 30,000 to 40,000 people, including pardoned prisoners. Last year, the Federal Government allocated Dh11m for deportees and spent Dh698,000 on airline tickets for released prisoners who had been ordered out of the country by Abu Dhabi courts. Those non-Muslim prisoners who do not get a lucky break this Ramadan will not be expected to observe fasting from dawn until dusk during the holy month. "They will be served three meals a day," said Col Shamsi.

"We do not discriminate Muslims from prisoners of other religions, and we ensure that their rights are protected while in prison," he added.

Published: August 21, 2008 04:00 AM


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