International

Malayalee janitor’s case to come up for final hearing in Abu Dhabi

The Court of Cassation in Abu Dhabi – the highest court in the United Arab Emirates - will on March 30 give a final ruling on whether Ezhur Kalarikal Gangadharan, a janitor at the Al Rabeeh school in Abu Dhabi, who was accused of raping a 7-year old Emirati student of the school in 2013, is guilty of the crime.

If convicted, Mr. Gangadharan, who has worked at the same school for the last 32 years, will face the death sentence. Since July 2013, when Mr. Gangadharan was first imprisoned, his case has gone up and down the many levels of the Emirati judicial system. Ultimately, in a ruling in May 2014 the Court of Cassation referred his death sentence back to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that he was placed under extreme physical duress and his case misrepresented in the First Court.

Mr. Gangadharan is a Malayalam speaker who knows a smattering of English, but was given a Hindi translator who was found to be unlicensed by the Court. His complaint that he was tortured was misrepresented as satisfaction with his treatment.

Although several human rights organisations and concerned individuals in the United Kingdom and elsewhere are lobbying strongly for the 56-year old school janitor, it is far from certain that what they present as incontrovertible proof of his innocence will set him free. Mr. Gangadharan is from Malappuram in Kerala where his wife and three daughters live.

Mr. Gangadharan is accused of pulling a 7-year old who was on her way to deliver some papers to the Principal’s office into a pantry located next door at 11.30 am on a working day. He allegedly raped her and warned her not to tell anyone.

Compelling forensic evidence was ignored, his defence team argues. Forensic reports based on samples taken from his person; from the site, and from his alleged victim show no DNA evidence of contact between Mr. Gangadharan and the child.

The evidence is also suspect in respect of location and time, and of shifting versions given by the child’s family. Four teachers who gave evidence before the Appeal Court said the child’s behavior on that day was normal and she participated in all activities, hardly the markers of a child who had been subject to the violence of rape. It was also very unlikely that such an act could have happened undetected in a central and much-used room during peak school hours, they said.

One Emirati teacher gave a glowing character reference for Mr. Gangadharan who has an unblemished 32-year track record. The Appeal Court’s decision placed reliance on Mr. Gangadharan's ‘confession’, which, according to his legal team, was obtained through torture by the police. He signed a confession in Arabic, which he appears not to have understood, as he pleaded innocent in court.

If the Cassation Court upholds the Court of Appeal judgment, the death sentence will then be referred to the President for ratification. Or, the Court can acquit him, or even refer the case back to the Court of Appeal.

"Mr. Gangadharan's case once again shows the UAE flouting their international obligations to conduct a full and independent inquiry into the torture to which he was subjected. Instead, the Court of Appeal has ignored the evidence of torture and relied on a forced 'confession' to secure a conviction and death sentence against him despite a wealth of contradictory evidence. The Indian Government must take action to protect their citizen from this gross miscarriage of justice and demand that the UAE now conducts the full independent inquiry that is now so long overdue," a spokesperson from the UK-based human rights organization Reprieve told The Hindu.

Bristol-based Tom Aditya, who is also vice-chair of the Avon and Somerset Police Advisory Panel, condemned the “miscarriage of justice” suffered by Mr. Gangadharan. “Keralite communities in India, the UAE and the UK are appalled that an innocent man was tortured to make him confess to a heinous crime he did not commit. “

He warned of an international outcry if “this gentle and innocent man who was trying to support his family in Kerala is put to death,” adding, “he will become a permanent symbol of the abuse of Indian workers in the Gulf States.”

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 2:38:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/malayalee-janitors-case-to-come-up-for-final-hearing-in-abu-dhabi/article7018805.ece

Next Story