With a growing number of European politicians joining calls on Portugal to release Indian Sikh Paramjeet Singh from the jail cell in Beja that has been his home since before Christmas, British MP John Spellar has told the country’s Minister for Europe that it is time to get off the fence and act.
“This does seem to be the stage at which the UK government should intervene,” the Socialist MP for Warley wrote to David Lydington yesterday (Wednesday).
After six weeks in which his constituent and father-of-four from Smethwick in the West Midlands has been held on what has been described as a bogus Red Notice kept in place by Interpol, Spellar stressed now is the time to “make a very strong case for Paramjeet Singh” and ensure he is returned to the UK – the country that granted him protection and refugee status in 2000.
“Any complaints that the Indian government have with regard to his actions should be taken up with the UK,” Spellar adds – encapsulating the whole basis of the relentless campaign to free Mr Singh from Portugal’s clutches.
As Spellar made his appeal, MEPs in Portugal and UK were joining campaigners – with one being urged last night to lead a British delegation to Portugal to visit Mr Singh in Braga and then lobby Justice Minister Francisca Van Dunem.
Already Portugal’s own Socialist MEP Ana Gomes has taken a stance, writing directly to Van Dunem over the inconsistencies in the case presented by the Indian government.
Gomes’ letter followed a personal appeal to Portuguese prime minister António Costa by the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn (click here).
But as the efforts continue to try and save a man from what many believe would be a death sentence in his native country, the Sikh Federation – which has been spearheading the campaign – says it is “unclear exactly what was presented by the Indian authorities to the Portuguese Attorney General on Monday” when Évora judges ruled the case should be referred for a decision by the Justice Minister.
If Indian newspapers “are to be believed”, Indian police are only mentioning charges which have already been thoroughly investigated and thrown out.
Said the Sikh Federation’s chairman Bhai Amrik Singh: “The question many UK politicians have asked is if India has any more evidence why has it opted for a back door approach to extradition? The fact the Indian authorities have not come back to Britain speaks volumes and is unacceptable.”
But while campaigners keep the pressure up – and the new deadline for a decision appears to be February 15 – the Sikh Federation has warned that “India has been and continues to work hard to convince Portuguese politicians, the Attorney General, Minister for Justice and the Prime Minister – and has been leaning on the Foreign Office in the UK to turn a blind eye and let the extradition take place”.
Thus, it is a case where noise, on both sides, has to be maintained.
Spellar meantime has stressed that “urgent action” is now needed from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in UK and “their opposite numbers in Portugal, and also from our Ambassador in Portugal Kirsty Hayes”.
The Resident hopes to keep up with this story as for reasons unknown it appears to have dropped off national and UK radar.
STOP PRESS: As we wrote this story, we received word from Paramjeet Singh’s lawyer Gurpatwant Pannun that the defence team has just filed a criminal complaint with the Portuguese Attorney General against the Indian police camped in Lisbon. The complaint centres on torture and extrajudicial killings of Sikhs, and stems from earlier information that one of the policemen sent by India to take custody of Mr Singh is a man who tortured him before he was granted political asylum in Britain.