The simple act of checking in to an Albufeira hotel with his family was all it took to catch a man accused of terrorism and murder.
Paramjeet Singh had passed through airport security in both UK and Portugal (Lisbon) last Thursday saying he was visiting the country “to stay with friends”, reports Correio da Manhã.
But when he checked into a hotel in Albufeira (as yet unidentified), the IT link to SEF border control agency flagged up an international extradition warrant, emitted in India for terrorism.
“Pamma”, as the 42-year-old is apparently known to authorities in his native country, is wanted over two railway bombings in the Punjab in 2010 that killed 70 people, and in relation to the killing of an Indian politician the year before.
Indian authorities describe Singh as “very dangerous and violent”. Thus SEF moved in.
The news – coming in a week when Interpol sent out a Europe-wide alert that terrorists involved in the attacks in Paris last month “could be in Portugal” – received widespread coverage both here and in India.
The Hindustan Times wrote that Singh “already had an Interpol Red Corner notice against him that helped nab the fugitive”, and claimed that after the killing of the Indian politician in 2009, Singh “became the lynchpin of terrorist-related activities in Thailand and provided infrastructural support in South-East Asia to Punjab terrorists”.
But Singh’s family has told RTP that they “are innocent people” and that they now have to prove it so that Singh is not extradited to India to face the litany of terror-related charges stacked against him.
News stories suggest the Sikh has been a political refugee in the UK since 1994.
If this is true, then the Évora Appeal Court – due to discuss his extradition tomorrow (Monday) – will not be able to send the father-of-four to India.
Talking to RTP, Portuguese lawyer Manuel Luís Ferreira explains that under terms of statutes protecting political refugees, extradition would only be allowed to the country that has taken him in, in other words the UK.
As Ferreira works on getting copies of all the relevant papers to prove Singh’s status, American lawyer Gurpup Pannun – who RTP explains “defends causes affecting the Sikh community” – is on his way from New York and expected to arrive in time for the court hearing.
Meantime, Singh’s wife Pinky and her four children are still in Portugal, but “want to return to Britain as soon as possible”.
Wiping tears from her eyes in RTP’s lunchtime news report today, Pinky Singh told the television station how her husband’s “whole family” had been killed by authorities in India.
SIKH HAS PRECEDENT ON HIS SIDE
As the family waits for tomorrow’s court hearing, there is a glimmer of hope that precedent could be on their side.
In 2003, Ferreira defended the extradition of another Indian wanted on terror charges by the Indian authorities.
Portugal eventually agreed to hand Abu Saleem over, on the understanding that he would not be put to death or sent to prison for the rest of his life, but these terms have not been complied with, explains RTP.
Twelve years on, Abu Saleem has been condemned to life imprisonment on one of the charges levelled against him (regarding a bomb attack in Bombay in 1993) and he has yet to be heard over a number of other alleged crimes.
Thus, Ferreira told the station, he hopes very much that Portuguese authorities will not comply with this latest extradition warrant.