5,500 Prisoners to Be Freed This Ramadan

RIYADH- Saudi Arabia will release 5,500 prisoners, mainly convicted Asian and African workers serving prison terms in different jails.

Only those foreign workers, whose cases are unrelated to such serious crimes as terrorism and drug-trafficking, will be released and deported during Ramadan following royal clemency to be granted by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd.

“The process to free the prisoners will start from the holy month of Ramadan that begins in mid-October,” said Brig. Gen. Ali Al-Harithi, director general of prisons.

Al-Harithi said in remarks published in a local daily that “no one convicted on terrorism charges will be released”.

“The process will continue throughout Ramadan,” said Al-Harithi, noting that the imprisoned expatriates, once released, will be repatriated to their countries immediately.

Asked about the total number of Filipino convicts expected to be released during Ramadan, Mariano Dumia, minister and consul general at the Philippine Embassy, said, “We are still preparing the list of over. seas Filipino workers to be submitted to the Saudi government for royal pardon. By next week, the list will be ready.”

Saudi Arabia, which remains a top employment destination for overseas Filipino workers over the past several years despite the gradual Saudization of jobs, has a number of Filipino convicts serving sentences of varying lengths for crimes like immoral acts, alcoholism, corruption, pornography and a number of minor offenses.

The Kingdom is home to over 700,000 Filipino workers including 140,000 nurses and maids.

On the possible release of Indian prisoners, a labor and welfare official at the Indian Embassy said, “We are hopeful that the Saudi government will pardon Indian workers, who have been jailed for minor offenses. He said the total number of Indian convicts released over the last four years was 2,042 including a record 585 freed last year.

“Our workers are pardoned and released from time to time”, said Pervez Junejo, community welfare attaché at the Pakistani Embassy, without elaborating.

A general amnesty may also lead to the release of a substantial number of Bangladeshi workers.

A Bangladeshi official said “more than 1,000 Bangladeshis are currently in Saudi prisons and reformatory centers”. Many of these workers are serving sentences for minor crimes.

There was no word about the number of Indonesian and Sri Lankan convicts to be released.

An estimated 5,700 prisoners of different nationalities benefited from last year’s general amnesty.

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