Guidelines adopted eight months ago suggest INTERPOL and authorities in Portugal acted illegally over the detention of Indian-father-of-four Paramjeet Singh in Albufeira last month.
As the Resident has been explaining since December 19, political refugee Singh remains locked in a jail cell in Braga because authorities in India maintain he is a dangerous terrorist.
India’s bid for extradition has been backed by a red corner notice, issued sometime late last year by INTERPOL.
But only a few months before, INTERPOL had announced “a new policy relating to recognised refugees”.
It centres on international law enforcement agency agreeing to “remove red corner notices of individuals who have been verified as refugees”.
In other words, the situation should be clear as crystal. Singh should not have a red corner notice against him – as he was granted political asylum in UK 15 years ago, on the basis that to return to India would see him at risk of torture “subject to degrading treatment and possible death”.
He should not be sitting in a jail cell – approaching his fifth week behind bars.
But it isn’t that simple.
Despite a gargantuan wave of support, spearheaded by the British Sikh Federation, questions in parliament have still elicited the response from Minister for Europe David Lydington that: “it is ultimately the Portuguese authorities who have jurisdiction in Mr Singh’s case and who will decide whether or not to extradite him”.
Says Bhai Amrit Singh, the chairman of the Sikh Federation: “We smell a rat. The Indian authorities know Paramjeet Singh was granted asylum in the UK 15 years ago and the INTERPOL Red Notices are no longer valid for refugees”.
Yet “surprisingly”, he concludes, this reality appears to have been “lost on the Portuguese and British authorities”.
One positive aspect to come out of lobbying in parliament is that David Lydington stressed Singh would get ample opportunity to appeal if the decision due in Évora on January 26 goes against him.
Singh “would have the right of appeal to the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg”.
And Britain has “made the Portuguese authorities aware of Mr Singh’s asylum status”, he added.
But is unclear what kind of political game-playing this issue conceals. It is also unclear whether Singh would be left in prison as any appeals played out. Outsiders suggest Portugal could be reluctant to ‘snub’ India; that “other issues could be at stake”.
The Sikh Federation claims: “What this exposes is (that Indian Prime Minister) Narendra Modi is using underhand and illegal tactics to pressure the Portuguese and British authorities. What will become clear in the coming days and weeks is, will INTERPOL, the Portuguese and British establishment respect human rights, and stand up to the corrupt Indian authorities that clearly do not respect the human rights of minorities?”
Paramjeet Singh’s case is receiving widespread coverage now in UK, with both the BBC and ITV running stories, as well as local press in the family’s hometown of Smethwick.