Political pressure orchestrated in the UK is marshalling support for Indian father-of-four Paramjeet Singh, who is locked in a jail cell in Braga after being arrested as he checked into an Albufeira hotel just before Christmas.
The official version as to why 42-year-old Singh is behind bars awaiting a decision by Évora court on whether or not to extradite him to India is that Interpol has a red corner extradition notice out under his name, alleging he is wanted for questioning with regard to bomb attacks in the Punjab and the murder of a politician.
According to the red corner notice, Singh is “dangerous and violent”.
But lawyers and supporters at the Sikh Federation say Interpol’s information is nonsense. Worse, it smacks of a conspiracy that if not overcome could see Singh extradited to face an unfair trial and life imprisonment, if not death.
“There is almost no doubt that his detention in Portugal is due to pressure following Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit last month to the UK,” a statement released today by the Sikh Federation explains.
Modi – whose visit “met with considerable opposition highlighting the growing intolerance and treatment of minorities in India” – then went on to have a follow-up meeting with Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock in which he is understood to have “requested assistance with extraditions”, says the federation.
It was only after this meeting that the red corner notice against Paramjeet Singh appears to have been filed, as the “hard working family man” has been a frequent visitor to Portugal over the years and never once been detained, or informed of any warrant against him.
Adding further insult to alleged injury is the news that an 11-month joint investigation involving Indian and British police five years ago concluded that the evidence now set against Singh was “unsatisfactory” for him to be charged.
Since that time, trials in India of three others charged with the atrocities have ended in acquittals. Documents attesting to this are freely available on the Sikh news website: http://sikhsiyasat.net/
Thus, pressure is now on UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond to “demand that Portuguese authorities reunite” Singh with his family, desperately waiting for good news back in their home in the West Midlands.
Over the last five days, hundreds of letters have been sent to constituency MPs, and these are now set to continue up to the next Évora court date, set for January 4.
Portuguese lawyers representing Singh told journalists before Christmas that their client is innocent, and was not even in India at the time of the attacks cited by Interpol.
Évora judges presented with Singh on December 19 delayed a decision on extradition, pending a formal request to be elaborated by the Indian authorities.
Meantime, Singh’s local councillor Preet Kaur Gill has highlighted key questions overshadowing the story: “Why was Paramjeet arrested only once he left the UK? If the British government feels he will not receive a fair trial in India, is it right for Portugal to allow him to be extradited? Is Portugal in breach of EU laws by extraditing him somewhere that allows the death penalty? Before any decision is made on Paramjeet’s future, it is only right these questions are answered.”
For now, it remains a waiting game. As the Sikh Federation claims the situation has “ignited” Sikh groups across the world”, Paramjeet’s family is understood to have made a direct appeal for his safe return to Britain from Portugal to British Prime Minister David Cameron.