Doha News learned that most of the prisoners were unable to pay their fines to leave prison.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has pardoned 20 Sri Lankan prisoners in Doha involved in minor offences, Sri Lanka’s Daily News reported on Saturday.
A source from the Sri Lankan community in Qatar confirmed the report to Doha News on Sunday, noting that the prisoners are amongst those who have been pardoned by the Amir earlier this month.
Sheikh Tamim pardons a number of prisoners every Ramadan and Qatar’s National Day, which is celebrated on 18 December, as a gesture of goodwill. Details on the prisoners, including their names and offences, are not disclosed to the general public.
The source told Doha News that most of the prisoners have served their jail time, of at least three years, but were unable to pay their fines.
Sri Lankan media outlet Daily News, citing an embassy source, reported that the prisoners’ fines are going to be waived and Sri Lanka’s embassy in Qatar, headed by Ambassador Mafaz Mohideen, will be assisting the release of the prisoners.
Last week, Qatar’s Amir agreed to transfer 28 Iranian prisoners from Doha. The news was confirmed by Iran’s Ambassador to Doha Hamid Reza Dehghani, who said the decision came after the visit of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Qatar in February.
It still remains unclear whether those who have been released from Qatar’s prisons are amongst those who were pardoned by the Amir in Ramadan.
Last year, Qatar’s Amir pardoned 14 Nepali prisoners in Ramadan after granting general amnesty to 17 others in 2020. Nepal’s embassy in Qatar had said that some of those who were released were involved in petty theft.
“We had also requested the Qatari government to also pardon many other Nepalis who are in jail for minor offences,” said Narad Nath Bharadwaj, Nepal’s ambassador to Qatar at the time in 2021, noting that the prisoners were involved in minor offences.
Similar gestures were seen in April 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, when the Amir pardoned more than 500 inmates to reduce Qatar’s prison population as a response to the pandemic.
“Since the start of the pandemic, Qatar has made its priority clear, to protect the health and safety of all its citizens and residents by providing equal services to all, including those held in prisons,” said Qatar’s Government Communications Office (GCO) in 2020.
In 2018, Ethiopian media reported that Sheikh Tamim also pardoned eight prisoners from Ethiopia on the occasion of Qatar’s National Day. During Ramadan of the same year, the Amir granted pardon to 25 Filipino workers.
The Qatari leader pardoned 15 other Filipinos in 2016.
During the same year, the Amir released 23 Indian prisoners in 2016 in another special gesture during Ramadan, following the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Sheikh Tamim had pardoned 50 prisoners during the same year, including 27 Sri Lankans.
“A special gesture to mark the start of a special month…the Government of Qatar releases 23 prisoners, who will return home to India,” tweeted Modi at the time.