The complex case of an Indian Sikh detained on holiday in Albufeira last week continues to play out in Portugal as we approach Christmas.
It is now certain that 42-year-old father of four Paramjeet Singh will spend the holidays behind bars.
The official reason given by Évora’s court of appeal, is for India to be able to ‘formalise’ its request for extradition.
But the unofficial reason will have a lot to do with the investigative work that has to be undertaken by lawyers to prove Singh is the victim of a politically-motivated plot.
As Isabel da Silva Mendes of Advogados sem Fronteiras (Lawyers without Frontiers) told RTP news yesterday, the crimes which alleged separatist Singh is accused of having committed – involving murder and bomb attacks in the Punjab in 2009/ 2010 – all took place years after he left India, never to return.
Singh has been living in Birmingham, UK, under the statute of a political refugee for the last 20 years, the New York-based lawyer who has flown over to help Singh’s defence told Diário de Notícias.
“He is not a terrorist”, said Gurpatwat Pannun.
The accusations from India are “politically motivated” and false, Pannun added. “He has lived since 1994 in England under the protection of political asylum. The accusations boil down to a conspiracy that is not true. Any sikh who defends independence of the Punjab (Singh’s native home) risks an accusation of this kind in India”.
The bid for extradition, backed by a red corner warrant by Interpol, is also being contested by the UK Sikh Council – an organisation that defends the rights of the Sikh community, writes DN.
Thus Singh has a lot of legal heavyweights fighting his cause. One of these is Portuguese lawyer Manuel Luís Ferreira who succeeded in blocking the extradition of Jorge Santos (born George Wright in America) to the US after Santos was arrested following 41 years ‘on the run’ from prison.
At the time, Ferreira’s argument was based on multiple issues involving nationality, Santos’ health and the time that had elapsed since his crimes and subsequent jail break.
Ferreira will be hoping for a similar ‘result’ when Évora court reconvenes to decide the future of Paramjeet Singh on January 4.
Talking to journalists yesterday he said “the best prison in India doesn’t compare favourably to the worst prison in Portugal”, adding that the accusations levelled against Singh could see him being put to death in India, or being sent to prison for the rest of his life.
“Do you imagine I would leave my client to die? Or to be sent to prison in perpetuity? Obviously, I will not”, he said.
Singh is being held in Braga prison, awaiting his next appearance before Évora judges, while it is unclear whether his family have remained at the Albufeira hotel from which he was taken by police on Friday, or returned home to the UK.