Family of Indian nurse on death row in Yemen seek blood money deal with victim's relatives

Supreme Court rejects appeal against sentence given to Nimisha Priya after murder of Yemeni business partner in Sanaa

Nimisha Priya was convicted for murdering and dismembering her business partner Talal Abdu Mahadi in 2017.
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The family of an Indian nurse on death row in Yemen want to travel to the country to negotiate a blood money payment after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal against her sentence.

Nimisha Priya, 35, from the southern Indian state of Kerala, was tried in Yemen's capital Sanaa and in 2020 convicted of murdering and dismembering her Yemeni business partner Talal Abdu Mahadi in 2017.

The Indian government has appointed a lawyer for Priya and filed a revision plea, but on October 11 Yemen's Supreme Court rejected the appeal against her death sentence.

Only the country's president has the power to pardon her.

We now want the two families to sit and discuss how much money do they want? How do we transfer that
Deepa Joseph, Save Nimisha Priya campaign

Her relatives want to visit Mr Mahadi’s family and negotiate blood money, in exchange for Priya's life.

Her family appealed to the Delhi High Court this year to seek permission to visit Yemen, with Indian citizens having been barred from travelling to the country since 2017 because of the civil war.

After the Supreme Court’s ruling on the appeal, the Delhi court on Thursday urged India's government to issue a decision within a week on whether Priya’s mother’s will be cleared to travel to Yemen.

Deepa Joseph, vice president of Save Nimisha Priya International Action Council, which is working for her release, said her family wanted the opportunity to plead for her release.

“Her amma [mother] hopes that if she goes and pleads for forgiveness, they’ll forgive Priya. She has been expressing her desire again and again to go there and ask for forgiveness. We have requested the court to look at her request,” Ms Joseph told The National.

“Priya's daughter is hopeless. She watches the news and keeps questioning us about what will happen to her mother? She keeps crying. She is nine years old.”

Ms Joseph said that since Priya confessed to the murder, all hope was pinned on Mr Mahadi’s family accepting blood money.

“We knew the Supreme Court’s judgment as they said they’ll review if there is a technical error but, in this case, the accused’s confession is before the court. There is no scope for review,” she said.

“We have been told that this is a final judgment. We now want the two families, Priya's and the head of their tribes, to sit and discuss how much money do they want? How do we transfer that?

"The negotiations have not happened yet because we cannot travel due to the travel ban. The government will not pay the money on our behalf."

Ms Joseph said the family was offering compensation of 40 million rupees ($519,000).

“We cannot do anything without the government's support. We are hoping that after the high court’s order, the government will do something,” she said.

Arindam Bagchi, a representative for India's External Affairs Ministry, said on Thursday that the government was "extending consular assistance", but that it was a “legal process in their country, too”.

Priya met Mr Mahadi in 2011 and set up a clinic in Sanaa three years later. Documents were forged to show they were married because Yemeni law bars foreign citizens from setting up clinics and medical companies, Ms Joseph said.

Priya and her actual husband, Tomi Thomas, had taken out a loan of four million rupees to start the clinic, but soon accused Mr Mahadi of embezzling money, the lawyer said.

Mr Thomas returned to India with their daughter in late 2014. Priya was unable to follow them because of the civil war.

The Save Nimisha Priya International Action Council claimed Mr Mahadi responded to the allegations of embezzlement with threatening behaviour. He held Priya at gunpoint several times and stole her jewellery, the group said.

He was arrested after she complained to police, but allegedly continued to harass her and took her passport to prevent her from leaving Yemen, the group said.

Ms Joseph said Priya admitted to injecting Mr Mahadi with sedatives with the help of a Yemeni nurse, Hanan, but an overdose killed him.

She planned to obtain Mr Mahadi's thumb impression on a document to end the business deal, recover her passport and secure her freedom.

The nurses cut Mr Mahadi's body into pieces, which they put in plastic bags and dumped in a water tank at the clinic before fleeing Sanaa.

Police found the body parts following complaints about a smell from the water tank.

Hanan was sentenced to life in jail for her role in Mr Mahadi's death.

Updated: November 18, 2023, 4:06 AM