Work­ers on trial for start­ing camp riot

Wit­ness claims ma­chin­ery was set on fire and win­dows were smashed in ram­page

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Ali Al Shouk @alial­shouk

A group of eight men have been charged with lead­ing a riot in which hun­dreds of labour­ers ran­sacked their camp, caus­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dirhams worth of dam­age.

Pros­e­cu­tors yes­ter­day re­vealed de­tails of the Jan­uary ram­page.

Dubai Court of First In­stance was told that the row was sparked fol­low­ing a se­ries of thefts from ac­com­mo­da­tion rooms in the Jebel Ali site.

Af­ter camp man­agers turned down re­quests to al­low labour­ers to lock their rooms, protests be­gan - in­creas­ing from 70 peo­ple to as many as 500 men, eye­wit­nesses told the court.

Dur­ing the riot that fol­lowed, fires were started and a water tank was top­pled from the roof of one ac­com­mo­da­tion block.

Pros­e­cu­tors said that the men also smashed up doors, win­dows, AC units, ve­hi­cles, bikes, heavy ma­chin­ery and also com­put­ers.

A 31-year-old Egyp­tian site su­per­vi­sor said that the ri­ot­ers sur­rounded his of­fice and started ham­mer­ing on doors and win­dows.

“There were some very scary mo­ments un­til I man­aged to es­cape from them,” he tes­ti­fied in court yes­ter­day.

“We were in dan­ger… the riot was ter­ri­fy­ing, I didn’t ex­pect it at all.”

Dubai Court of First In­stance was told that the ac­cused, seven In­dian men and their Bangladeshi work­mate, were re­spon­si­ble for en­cour­ag­ing the men to riot. The cost of the dam­age was placed at Dhs287,000.

Pros­e­cu­tors said it was sparked on Jan­uary 3, about 8pm, when a 28year-old In­dian man, one of the de­fen­dants, dis­cov­ered his pos­ses­sions had been stolen from his bed space. An­other two men, also now on trial, re­ported hav­ing money stolen from their rooms to a se­cu­rity guard. The 25-year-old guard said he called Dubai Po­lice, but work­ers quickly gath­ered and be­gan to get an­gry. He tes­ti­fied: “I saw the de­fen­dants gath­er­ing about 70 work­ers and they were fu­ri­ous, ask­ing us to give them keys to lock their rooms to avoid the thefts. “Then they started dam­ag­ing the camp prop­erty. “Within min­utes the num­ber in­volved rose to more than 500 work­ers. “They started a riot and tar­geted the se­cu­rity guards’ of­fices. “They were us­ing bars and rocks to dam­age the win­dows and doors and the sus­pects [on trial] were lead­ing them.” He said one opened the fuel tank on some heavy ma­chin­ery and threw a lighter in­side, caus­ing it to catch fire. “One of them went to the roof and started push­ing the water tank un­til it col­lapsed to the ground,” the guard added. The riot ended when po­lice ar­rived. A 30-year-old Emi­rati po­lice of­fi­cer said the ring­leaders were found. Con­trary to claims about the thefts, pros­e­cu­tors said that the de­fen­dants were an­gry be­cause the camp man­agers had con­fis­cated al­co­hol from them ear­lier. The eight ac­cused stand charged with dam­ag­ing prop­erty, in­sti­gat­ing a riot and set­ting ve­hi­cles on fire. They de­nied the charges. The trial con­tin­ues next month.

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