Pardoned Punjab men return from UAE

17 men 16 from Punjab, one from Haryana were convicted of murder

The 17 Indians who were convicted of murder in the United Arab Emirates but freed after a hotelier bought their pardon returned home Tuesday. The men 16 from Punjab and one from Haryana would reunite with their families at the Golden Temple.

The men were convicted of murdering Pakistani Misri Khan and sentenced to death on March 28, 2010. Their fate witnessed a series of twists and turns before the victim's family agreed to pardon them in lieu of blood money claimed to be Rs 6 crore offered by Dubai-based hotelier S P Singh Oberoi.

"Oberoi Sahib turned out to be farishta for us. We had lost all hope of freedom but Oberoi Sahib made it possible," Kashmir Singh, 30, of Ratoke village in Tarn Taran district, who had gone to the UAE in 2007, said over phone after landing in New Delhi. "I am looking forward to seeing my wife, my mother and two children."

Had it not been for his efforts, our fate would have been worse," said Kashmir Singh (30), a resident of Ratoke village in Tarn Taran. Kashmir had left for UAE in 2007.

Dharampal Singh, a resident of Chog Tehal Singh said he went to Dubai in September 2007 after spending Rs 1 lakh. "After working with a company for about four months there, I was sacked. I started working somewhere else and was caught working in an alleged illegal manner. I do not know who Misri Khan was. I never saw him. He was killed about 30 to 40 km away from the place we lived," Dharampal claimed.

"None of us were remotely associated with the murder of Misri Khan," said Kuldeep Singh (28) from Khukhrana village in Moga, who went to Dubai in 2008. "We lived in a group of 60 to 70 people. There were people from countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as well. Initially, they were also arrested for the murder, but later, we 17 had to face trial," Kuldeep said, adding that while he was in jail, his shocked elder brother had died from a heart attack in India.

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