Indians stuck in Qatar jail seek help from PM’s Office

Around 200 Indians languishing in Qatar’s central jail for the last five years have sought the intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to release them from indefinite detention.

Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions have raised the threat of COVID-19 spread among inmates following the outbreak of the disease in the prison. “Many of those in prison for economic offences have been duped by their Qatari investors,” Prajeesh Thiruthiyil, president of Indian-Qatar Entrepreneurs Action Council, told The Hindu.

Reminders sent to the Indian Embassy in Qatar have yielded no results. “Now, the intervention of the PMO and the Ministry of External Affairs alone can release them from captivity,” said V. Fairoos, whose father V. Pareed was involved in the construction of labour camps in Qatar.

Mr. Faroos said his father, who invested around 35 lakh Qatari riyals on the project was cheated by a Qatari who had obtained advance blank cheques. “The Qatari laws will not entertain the victim to defend in court,” he added.

India-Qatar pact

The agreement between India and Qatar on reciprocal promotion and protection of investments signed in April 1999 has led to denial of justice to Indians. “The agreement says that any Indian can start business with a Qatari partnership on a 49:51 share basis. Unfortunately, the pact has been treated as law in Qatar since 2001,” he said.

The case of K. Arun, a hotel manager who returned to Qatar after his marriage a year ago, is similar. “My husband has no idea as to when some Qatari investors secured a blank cheque for starting a company that failed,” said Anusmrithi, who has appealed to the Department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs to help him.

A majority of those incarcerated are from north Kerala, and some are from Tamil Nadu. The Human Rights Watch of the Middle East and North Africa Division has already asked the Qatar authorities to reduce prison populations, so as to ensure physical distancing and put in place appropriate hygiene and cleaning protocols. Vulnerable prisoners and those held for low-level or non-violent offences should be released to have access to medical care, it said.

Mr. Thiruthiyil said the US-backed GCC economic embargo on Qatar had resulted in Qatari investors resorting to unfair practices. Hotels and supermarkets in which Indians had major stakes had to be closed in the past few years. Following the intervention of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, more than 50 Pakistani prisoners were released. “We hope the Indian government will take up the issue with its Qatari counterpart, he added.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2020 3:48:11 AM |

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