Massive efforts are underway to save Sikh father-of-four Paramjeet Singh from extradition from Portugal to India as Évora appeal court has extended his remand in police custody by a further 22 days.
Sikhs throughout the world are lobbying for Singh’s “safe return” to the UK, where he has been living under the protection of political asylum since 1999.
Two hundred MPs have already been contacted since Singh was wrestled away from his horrified family in an Albufeira hotel just before Christmas, and earlier this week the British Sikh Federation organised a meeting with the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.
In tandem with the Swiss-based movement Against Atrocities and Repression (MAAR), the intervention has led to the case being referred for “urgent action” to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
As chairman of the Sikh Federation has explained, Singh’s imprisonment in Portugal is not only “unfair”, it “raises fundamental concerns that have much broader consequences for all individuals granted political asylum” in UK.
The federation is particularly keen to “establish why the UK Government has been unable to demand and secure the return of somebody they have granted political asylum” particularly since a joint investigation lasting 11 months and involving Indian and British police forces five years ago “concluded that the evidence now set against Singh was unsatisfactory for him to be charged”.
Convinced extradition will lead to Singh’s “almost certain torture and possible death”, the Sikh group has also written directly to the new UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who took up his appointment on Monday – replacing former Portuguese Prime Minister António Guterres.
That this Portuguese connection could be a coincidence is just another wrinkle in a case that throws up far too many questions than it answers.
As the Sikh Federation press releases have stressed, the Interpol red corner notice that led to Singh’s arrest in Albufeira had only been issued since the controversial visit of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the UK in November.
Previously, Singh and his family had regularly travelled to Portugal from UK, with no problems.
António Guterres “will be embarrassed by the actions of the Portuguese authorities”, claims the federation – but the truth is, right now no-one knows what will happen next.
The federation affirms that the pressure they are orchestrating is “having a real impact in Portugal”, and certainly the January 4 deadline for judges to decide on extradition has passed. The reason, ostensibly, is to give India more time to formalise its extradition request – but one would have thought that this would be straightforward, given that the issue was already the subject of an arrest warrant authorised by Interpol who described Singh as “violent and dangerous”.
For now, Paramjeet Singh remains behind bars in Portugal for a fourth week.