26 year old Indian national Gurwinder Singh from Punjab travelled to Saudi Arabia in December, 2015 to work as a Heavy Goods Driver at ‘Ayub Abdullah Al Zunedi in Zulfi’ Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
In the first three months of his employment, Gurwinder’s employer failed to pay his salary. Gurwinder’ confronted his employer Ayub Abdullah Al Zunedi in relation to the wilful refusal to pay the salary due to him. Gurwinder alleges that Ayub Abdullah Al Zunedi threatened to kill him for asking for his salary. This is part of the ‘Kafala’ system in action (note below under ‘Further reading’).
Gurwinder took his employer to the Labour Court to recover the overdue salary however, his employer refused to pay. Instead Ayub Abdullah Al Zunedi proceeded to make deductions from Gurwinder’s salary for alleged damage to the vehicle and continued to withhold his salary.
On the 9th of September, 2017 during the course of his employment and whilst driving his truck, Gurwinder’s truck was hit by a speeding car. The driver of the speeding car died on impact. Gurwinder maintains that he was driving at a speed of between 30-40 M.P.H and that the driver of the car was allegedly driving at a speed of between 160 and 180 M.P.H. This was backed up by the findings of the Police investigation into the collision.
The Police investigation disclosed that Gurwinder Singh was not insured to drive. Gurwinder claims that in Saudi Arabia it is the duty of the employer to insure the employees under the employment contract. Ayub Abdullah Al Zunedi refused to take responsibility; instead he made false accusations against Gurwinder and filed a malicious criminal complaint. The Saudi Police did not investigate Ayub Abdullah Al Zunedi for failing to provide Gurwinder Singh with insurance cover.
Gurwinder Singh was tried under Sharia Law and Ordered to pay 2 million and 44 thousand in Saudi Riyal in ‘blood money’ (that is Rs 42 Lakh (approximately £42,000 GB)) to the family of the deceased who have made it clear, that they will not accept anything less than the ‘blood money’ Ordered under Sharia Law. Unless this amount is paid to the satisfaction of the deceased’s family, Gurwinder Singh remains in prison custody.