|Javid Hassan, Arab News|
RIYADH, 25 June 2006 — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has paid SR185,701 to the members of a Saudi family to secure the release of an Indian driver involved in a car accident nearly two years ago.
Shaukat Abdul Samad, from the city of Quilon in the south Indian state of Kerala, was released from Al-Uyoon prison in Hofuf on Friday night. He was one of the beneficiaries of the amnesty declared recently by King Abdullah.
Speaking from Hofuf after his release, Abdul Samad said the accident occurred in October 2004 when the car he was driving was rammed by a SAPTCO (Saudi Arabian Public Transport Company) bus as he was making a U-turn. Three people — the head of a Saudi family, his wife and daughter — died on the spot while Abdul Samad survived.
The police arrested Abdul Samad and imprisoned him for causing the accident. He was also held liable for the payment of blood money to the next of kin.
“This was a tragic end to my dream of earning a good living in the Gulf. The accident brutally shattered my life and left me to ponder my future behind bars,” he said.
Abdul Samad’s employer had tried to help him by negotiating with the victims’ family to reach an out-of-court settlement. “At that time, my sponsor was told that the family would not insist on full payment of the blood money and would try to be reasonable, considering my circumstances as an Indian driver,” he said.
They changed their position later and demanded full payment of the blood money, which amounts to SR185,701. The accident victims’ son claimed that his late father had heavy financial commitments and therefore he needed the entire amount to meet those obligations.
Abdul Samad said the turning point was when the king visited New Delhi on Jan. 26 and his family submitted a petition for mercy to him through E. Ahamed, India’s minister of state for external affairs.
In the petition Abdul Samad’s wife explained the situation at home, pointing out in particular their acute state of financial and mental distress. It was then that the move to secure his release gained momentum. As a result of the petition, King Abdullah paid the blood money to the relatives of the deceased and ordered the release of Abdul Samad.
Abdul Samad expressed his gratitude to the king and said he and his family would never forget the royal gesture that had given them a new life.
In April, another worker from the same Indian town was released from a Dammam jail following a royal pardon announced ahead of the king’s visit to India.
Abdul Lateef Naushad, 34, was sentenced by a court to have one of his eyes gouged out for partially blinding Naif Al-Otaibi, a Saudi computer professional, during a scuffle at a gas station where the former was employed.
The incident took place in 2003 and Naushad remained in jail until his release on April 6. Naushad claimed that he had acted in self-defense.
Following appeals by the Indian government, the victim pardoned Naushad, making the granting of royal clemency possible. In Islamic law, a victim has a right to retribution and only he or she can pardon the assailant.
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest employers of migrant workers. Approximately one third of the Kingdom’s population and 70 percent of the labor force are foreigners, primarily from Asia. Indians, whose number currently exceeds 1.5 million, represent a very substantial percent of foreign work force.