RIYADH/JEDDAH, 23 January 2006 — A Saudi national who lost an eye due to an assault by an Indian expatriate yesterday pardoned the assailant who was to pay for the offense with his eye.
According to NDTV, an Indian satellite channel, Naif Al-Otaibi, a computer professional, pardoned 34-year-old Puthen Veetil Abdul Lateef Naushad of Kollam in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
Saudi Ambassador to India Saleh Mohammad Al-Ghamdi said that Naushad was safe and would not come to any harm, NDTV said. “The pardon is in keeping with the Kingdom’s track record, which shows that it has always been encouraging a peaceful settlement of all disputes between Saudis and expatriates, between employers and employees,” said Abdullah Al-Ghamdi, a Saudi businessman and member of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“In fact, there have been many instances when the king or the victims or their families have pardoned the perpetrators of murders and other crimes,” he said.
In Kerala, Naushad’s family said one of his colleagues telephoned to convey the news of the pardon yesterday.
“Allah is great and we are thankful to all who helped us. I do not know how to thank everyone including the person who pardoned my son,” said Naushad’s 50-year-old mother, Nafeesa Beevi.
“Indians will appreciate this noble gesture of the victim who could have insisted an eye for an eye from the assailant,” Karunakaran Pillai, sales manager of Emirates Airlines, told Arab News.
Under Islamic law, the victim has a right to retribution. In this case the punishment would have been to partially blind Naushad by removing one of his eyes. Only the victim has a right to pardon him.
Since 1995, Naushad had been working at a Dammam gas station. In April 2003 he fell into a scuffle with a Saudi customer over payment and ended up in jail. The Saudi lost sight in one eye a few weeks later, which he blamed on the fisticuffs.
Naushad denied causing Otaibi’s partial blindness, and said he acted in self-defense. He was found guilty of the crime and imprisoned.
Naushad has been in jail for the past three years fighting his sentence. Otaibi initially refused to settle for monetary compensation.
Naushad filed a court appeal in 2004, asking for the victim’s pardon. His sentence had been referred from a Dammam court to the Kingdom’s high court in Riyadh.
“The news has not only heartened the members of Naushad’s family but also it has given a message to the expatriate workers that Saudis are a friendly people who respect the foreign workers,” J.N. Varghese, an accountant at Absal Steel Factory, told Arab News.
Ali Koya, vice chairman of Yara International School, said persistent efforts of the social service organizations supported by the Indian Embassy team have finally borne fruit.
“The pardon granted to Naushad is something all Indians, especially Keralites, have been praying for and looking forward to,” said V.P. Muhammad Ali, who hails from Kerala and is managing director of Jeddah National Hospital.
“This is definitely a humanitarian act. We all know that Saudis are known for their goodwill and kindness, and this is just one more example of the magnanimity of Saudis. This also shows the special regard Saudis have for India and Indians. In Naushad’s case the media in both countries should be congratulated for highlighting the issue,” said Dr. Abdullah Moopen, a psychiatrist with Al-Abeer Polyclinic.
“I was delighted when I first watched a satellite TV announcement. This augurs well at a time when Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah is due to visit India. This also shows the kind of fair deal all expatriates are getting here. Naushad’s family, which is already in New Delhi, should rejoice over the sparing of his eye since their demand has been met,” said Sultan Mazharuddin, media manager of a leading advertising agency.
“We must congratulate the victim for the gesture shown by him in pardoning Naushad. It also shows how large-hearted Saudis are,” said Riaz Mulla, general manager of ATEICO Communications.
Naushad has been his family’s sole breadwinner. His wife Suhaila has traveled to New Delhi hoping to seek a pardon from King Abdullah that would release Naushad from his jail sentence. Since he was jailed, Naushad’s family back home in Kerala has been surviving on remittances sent by friends.
Indian Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed and Kerala’s Chief Minister Oomen Chandy have asked the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to bring up the case with King Abdullah during his visit.
“Even though normally countries do not interfere with judgments in other countries, this is certainly a special case, therefore I am hopeful,” said Chandy.
The case also came up for discussion in India’s Rajya Sabha (the country’s Council of States) where members said the Saudi’s partial blindness was unintentional. They had expressed hope that King Abdullah would respond in kind to the request for a royal pardon during the visit.