India has sought consular access to the 17 Indians who have been sentenced to death by Sharjah’s Shariah court for killing a Pakistani man, the highest number of people awarded capital punishment in one instance in the UAE.

The Indian nationals have been sentenced to death for killing a Pakistani and injuring three others in a vicious attack last year in a fight over illegal alcohol business.

“The Consulate is seeking more details, including a copy of the judgement on the 17 Indians reportedly sentenced to death,” the mission said in a statement here.

All the accused are aged between 17 and 30 years.

An official source at UAE’s Ministry of Justice, meanwhile, said the death sentence awarded to Indians was subject to appeal, Emirates News Agency WAM reported.

The fight had occurred in the Al Sajaa area of Sharjah in January last year during which the victim had suffered severe head injuries and stab wounds.

According to the procedures followed in the UAE, the primary ruling has to be presented to the court of appeal to ratify the ruling.

The ministry of justice appoints lawyers for those who are unable to do so, especially in homicide cases that entail life and capital sentence.

According to UAE laws, the convicted workers can move an appeal within 15 days of the verdict, a court official said.

“(This is) a preliminary sentence and, by force of law, is subject to other forms of litigation,” a Justice Ministry source was quoted by Khaleej Times as saying.

In New Delhi, Minister of Indian Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi said yesterday: “We have already asked the Indian Consulate for a report and they have been asked to move fast for helping those people to appeal.”

The Shariah court sentenced the 17 Indian labourers to death after all evidence, including DNA tests, showed that they had knifed the Pakistani to death in January last year during a fight over the control of illegal liquor business.

The verdict against the 17, who, according to prosecutors, led the attack, is said to be the highest number of people awarded the death penalty in one instance in the UAE.

Meanwhile, the Indian Community Welfare Committee in Dubai and Indian Association Sharjah have said they would step up anti-alcohol awareness campaigns in labour camps, following recent bootlegging violence.

During court hearings, all the suspects confessed they had fought with and murdered the victim.

Islam, the main religion of the local population of the United Arab Emirates of which Sharjah is a member, bans the production, sale and consumption of alcohol.

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