DUBAI (AFP) – Seventeen Indians have been sentenced to death for killing a Pakistani man in a turf dispute between rival bootleg liquor gangs in the United Arab Emirates last year, newspaper reports said on Monday.
The 17 were accused of being the leaders of a mob of up to 50 people involved in the attack in which the Pakistani man was beaten to death with metal bars, the reports said.
The justice ministry, in a statement issued later on Monday, said the death sentences were handed down by a lower court and were subject to appeal.
Another three people suffered injuries during the incident which took place in the coastal city state of Sharjah, one of the UAE’s seven emirates, in January 2009.
The dispute was between rival gangs vying to sell illegal liquor to labourers in the Al-Sajaa area of Sharjah, The National reported.
The sentences marked the highest number of death penalties handed down at one time in the emirate, the daily cited court officials as saying.
In its statement carried by the state news agency WAM, the justice ministry said the verdict “could be appealed.”
It said the ministry would usually provide lawyers to defendants who could not foot the defence bill, especially in criminal cases where sentences could reach execution or life imprisonment.
Death sentences are usually commuted to life in prison in Sharjah and the rest of the Gulf Arab country.
Alcohol is banned in the emirate, which lies north of Dubai, a more liberal city state where liquor can be sold by bars and restaurants with special permits.
However, Dubai has also witnessed bootlegging violence.
The National reported in February that 13 members of an alleged bootlegging gang from the Jebel Ali area were accused of kidnapping two rivals, raping them and burying them alive.