An inmate, serving life imprisonment for deliberate arson at Bur Dubai police station in 2001, will be granted an early release after serving 18 years of his sentence, the Dubai Court of First Instance ruled on Sunday.

The 40-year-old Emirati man had been detained along with four others in October 2001, and later sentenced to life imprisonment upon conviction. They had been served with varied jail terms, fined and ordered to pay Dh2.1 million in blood money to the parents of the 14 prisoners who had perished during the fire.

In 2017, the convicts sought pardon but the court rejected their plea.

The Emirati man made a second plea for pardon in September 2019, following which the court on Sunday ordered an early release.

“The long years inside jail changed me from a reckless young man to a new person who knows the meaning of responsibility. I was 22 when I entered jail and now I’m over 40. All these years has taught me a lot and brought me closer to God,” the man told the judges.

A social expert’s report backed the man’s plea as it confirmed that he had joined reformative programmes in prison and his good behaviour had influenced other inmates.

The five inmates — three Emiratis, an Omani and a fifth person who doesn’t have personal identification papers — started the fire by igniting a foam mattress with a cigarette lighter in a cell that housed juvenile prisoners in drug-related cases. All the victims were inmates of the cell. They suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. Fifteen people were injured in the incident.

The petitioner based his pleas on Article 1/45 of the Federal Law No. 43 of 1992, concerning regulation of punitive and correctional establishments. The law stipulates that a convict who has completed 15 years of a life sentence is entitled to file a special petition to be released from jail.

Despite a recommendation from Prosecution to reject the petition, the court approved the man’s request in this case.