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Riyadh, Aug 20: Two Indian nationals sentenced to death on drug smuggling charges in Saudi Arabia have appealed to King Abdullah for clemency, an Indian embassy official said on Monday.   

Sheikh Mastan, a 32-year-old worker from the southern state of Kerala, was arrested in January 2004 in Riyadh and sentenced to death by a court in the eastern city of Dammam in May 2006, the official said.   

"A clemency petition has been forwarded by the ambassador of India... to King Abdullah... on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, on the basis of requests received from the family and the detainee himself," said P. Balachandran, second secretary at the Indian embassy in Riyadh.   

He said a similar petition had been delivered on behalf of another Indian man, Hamza Aboobaker, sentenced to death in the same case. Family friend Narayan Nilakant said Mastan had been living in Riyadh for six months when he was arrested, the day after Aboobaker was detained at Dammam airport with wo kilogrammes (4.4 pounds) of heroin in his luggage.   

Nilakant sent a copy of a message from Mastan's mother in India in which she said she went to see Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July, accompanied by Mastan's wife and four-year-old daughter, to plead for his intervention to secure a royal pardon.   

The message quoted Mastan as saying that after his arrest he was taken to hospital for mental health problems, and when he went to court "the judge told me that I admitted my offence (in a statement) signed by me."   

The family friend said Mastan's case went to appeal about a year ago, but nothing has been heard from the court, adding that the accused does not speak Arabic and cannot afford a lawyer.   

Saudi Arabia applies a strict form of sharia, or Islamic law, imposing the death penalty for drug trafficking as well as for rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery.   

A total of 122 people have already been beheaded in the ultra-conservative kingdom since the beginning of 2007, a record number in recent years, many after they were convicted of drug trafficking.    Around 1.5 million Indians live and work in oil-rich Saudi Arabia. 


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