India's government is exploring all options to prevent the execution of a nurse on death row in Sanaa, Yemen's rebel-held capital, for the killing of her Yemeni business partner in 2017, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said.
Nimisha Priya, 33, a trained nurse from Palakkad district in Kerala state, was tried in Sanaa and convicted in 2020 of murdering and dismembering Talal Abdu Mahadi.
Her family hopes to raise 40 million rupees ($519,000) to pay Mahadi's family as "blood money" in exchange for her life after the top court in Sanaa in March rejected her plea to have the death sentence commuted, according to Deepa Joseph, an advocate in Delhi and vice president of Save Nimisha Priya International Action Council — an association working for her release.
The “case will continue to receive our full attention … the possibility that tribal customs and traditions may offer relief is also being explored in co-operation with community organisations”, Mr Jaishankar said in a letter written on April 27.
He was replying to a request from John Brittas, a member of parliament from Kerala, for Mr Jaishankar’s intervention in the case and “constructive negotiation” with Mahadi’s family.
The Indian government has appointed a lawyer for Priya and plans to file a new revision plea before the Yemeni court, Indian media reported.
Priya met Mahadi in 2011 and set up a clinic in Sanaa three years later after forging documents to show that they were married because Yemeni law bars foreigners from setting up clinics and medical companies, according to Ms Joseph.
She and her actual husband, Tomi Thomas, had taken a loan of four million rupees to start the clinic but soon ran into a dispute with Mahadi after accusing him of embezzling money, the lawyer said.
Her husband returned to India with their daughter, now 7, in late 2014. Priya was unable to follow them because of the civil war that broke out after the Houthi rebels seized Sanaa in September that year.
The Save Nimisha Priya International Action Council said Mahadi responded to the allegations of embezzlement with threatening behaviour. He held Priya at gunpoint several times and also stole her jewellery.
He was arrested briefly after she complained to police, but continued to harass her and took her passport to prevent her from leaving Yemen, the group said.
Ms Joseph said Priya admitted to injecting Mahadi with sedatives with the help of a Yemeni nurse, Hanan, but an overdose killed him.
She had planned to get Mahadi's thumb impression on a document to end the business deal, recover her passport and eventually win her freedom.
Unable to find a place to hide Mahadi's body, the nurses cut it into pieces that they put in plastic bags and dumped in a water tank at the clinic before fleeing Sanaa.
Police found the body parts after locals complained of a smell from the water tank, leading to their arrest.
Hanan was sentenced to life imprisonment for her role in Mahadi's death.