Every time a fellow inmate at the al-Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi was taken away for execution at the firing range, 45-year-old Becks Krishnan’s heart would race. He remembered those moments vividly. There would be subtle changes in meal-times and their cells would be locked in advance.
During his time in the prison, he recalled at least seven inmates being taken away for execution, including his cell-mate, a Pakistani national who was shot dead in April. Having been sentenced to death by the UAE Federal Supreme Court for ramming a Sudanese minor with his car, the dread of possibly being the next in line always loomed over Krishnan’s mind.
But when Krishnan was informed that expatriate-businessman MA Yusuff Ali was intervening in the case by holding discussions with the family of the victim, he said “half the mental stress melted away”. After six years of talks and a payment of 500,000 dirhams (nearly Rs 1 crore) by Ali as ‘blood money’ to the victim’s family, Krishnan walked free. Early Tuesday morning, he landed at the Cochin International Airport to be reunited with his family after nine years.
“I have got a new life. I’m very happy,” Krishnan, a resident of Nadavarambu in Thrissur district, told reporters at the airport.
It was on September 13, 2012 that Krishnan, employed as a private company driver in Abu Dhabi, killed a six-year-old Sudanese boy in a car accident. He claimed that he had not rammed his car into the boy intentionally even though the victim’s family’s lawyer presented it that way in court.
“I could never commit such a cruel, intentional act. I don’t have the heart for it. The boy who died was around the same age as my son,” Krishnan told a local news channel after his return.
Nevertheless, a lower court in Abu Dhabi sentenced him to 15 years in prison. When it was appealed in a higher court, the punishment remained the same. In the hope of leniency, Krishnan’s family approached the Federal Supreme Court, but to their horror, the top court sentenced him to death in 2013.
Thus began frantic efforts by Krishnan’s family to get the attention of Indian authorities to intervene in the case and get him released. It was his brother-in-law Sethumadhavan, a prominent trade union leader in Kerala, who contacted the office of Ali and requested him for help. Ali, the chairman of Lulu Group and known for his philanthropic work, especially for Malayali expatriates in the Gulf countries, took a keen interest in the case and began talks with the victim’s family in the hopes of finding a middle-ground. The talks were long-drawn as the family relocated to Sudan in between.
“We had to convince both the parents and the negotiations went on for several months. It was difficult initially because the boy’s mother wanted the law to take its own course. Convincing them to pardon Krishnan was the difficult part,” said Ali in a statement.
After the family agreed, Ali paid 500,000 dirhams at the Abu Dhabi court in January this year as ‘diyah’ in accordance with Sharia law. He has also offered Krishnan a job at one of the Lulu properties.
“When we told Krishnan that Yusuff Ali was trying to help, he was partly relieved. We had hope that we could get him out. There’s a huge effort behind his release and without Yusuff Ali, it wouldn’t have been possible,” Binson, Krishnan’s brother, told The Indian Express.