Nimisha Priya: Family of Indian nurse on death row in Yemen to seek pardon

Nimisha Priya
Nimisha Priya has been in a prison in Yemen for a 2017 murder [BBC]

The family of an Indian nurse who is on death row in Yemen has travelled to the war-torn country to seek a pardon from the victim's relatives.

Nimisha Priya from India's Kerala state was convicted of the 2017 murder of a local man, Talal Abdo Mahdi.

In November, Yemen's Supreme Judicial Council rejected her appeal, clearing the way for her execution.

But as Yemen follows Sharia law, she can secure a pardon by paying diyah or "blood money" to the victim's family.

On Tuesday, her mother Prema Kumari, husband Tomy Thomas and 11-year-old daughter Mishal, arrived in Yemen's capital Sanaa, accompanied by Samuel Jones, a member of a lobby group called Save Nimisha Priya International Action Council. They will attempt to meet Nimisha in Sanaa central jail where she is being held.

They will then travel to meet the victim's family to persuade them to spare Nimisha's life in return for blood money.

In December, Prema Kumari had told the BBC that she wanted to travel to Yemen to seek "forgiveness" from Mahdi's family.

"I will apologise to them, I'll tell them, take my life, but please spare my daughter. Nimisha has a young daughter who needs her mother," she had said.

The family had been unable to travel to Yemen earlier since a 2017 Indian government ban on citizens travelling there remains and those needing to travel need special permission.

Nimisha Priya's mother
Nimisha's mother Prema Kumari is in Yemen to secure her daughter's release [BBC]

The Indian ministry of external affairs had rejected their request, saying Delhi didn't have a diplomatic presence in Yemen to ensure their safety.

The Save Nimisha Council then filed a petition in the Delhi high court, seeking permission for Nimisha's mother and daughter to travel to Sanaa. The court allowed them to travel but said the Indian government would not be liable if anything goes wrong.

Sanaa is controlled by Houthi rebels who have been locked in a prolonged civil war with Yemen's government, which is based in the southern city of Aden. India does not recognise the Houthis so a trip to Yemen for Indian citizens could be fraught with dangers.

The daughter of a poorly-paid domestic helper, Nimisha went to Yemen in 2008 and initially worked as a nurse in a government-run hospital in Sanaa, but later quit her low-paying job to start her own clinic in 2014.

As the law in Yemen mandated her to have a local partner, she opened the clinic jointly with Mahdi, a local store owner.

She was found guilty of murder after Mahdi's chopped-up body was discovered in a water tank.