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Growing political pressure on Portugal to drop extradition proceedings against Sikh man from Birmingham

December 30, 2015 | By

London, UK: More than 120 MPs have been contacted by constituents across the UK in the last 5 days to pressure Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary to demand the Portuguese authorities reunite a 42-year old man with his family in the West Midlands.

The political campaign is being spearheaded by the Sikh Federation (UK) by far the most active grassroots Sikh organisation in the UK for the last 30 years who with the help of organisations like the Refugee Council believe they can secure the support of well over 200 MPs from across the political spectrum.

On 18 December Paramjeet Singh was detained by Portuguese Immigration and Border Service (SEF) officers at a hotel in the Algarve under an international arrest warrant for extradition to India issued by Interpol.

Indian media sources claim Paramjeet Singh is wanted for questioning by police in relation to a conspiracy that resulted in the 2009 death of Rulda Singh, head of the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, a wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The RSS is a Hindu nationalist paramilitary group that has been involved in extreme violence, including acts of terrorism and been banned several times in India. This includes when RSS member Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. The most recent ban was in 1992 after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The RSS has clear Hindutva objectives and the the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi trained with the ultranationalist right wing Hindu group.

Paramjit Singh Pamma in custody of Portugal authorities

Paramjit Singh Pamma in custody of Portugal authorities

This case was already investigated in the UK in an 11 month joint investigation with Indian and British police in 2010. UK police officers even travelled to India, but the evidence was unsatisfactory for Paramjeet Singh to be charged. In an initial court hearing on 21 December in Portugal the authorities were given until 4 January 2016 to present evidence for Paramjeet Singh’s extradition.

Paramjeet Singh is a hard working family man who was granted political asylum in the UK more than 15 years ago due to fears he would be persecuted, tortured and subject to degrading treatment if he was to return to India. The British authorities granted Paramjeet Singh asylum as they were convinced his life would be in danger if he returned to India. His elder brother was tortured in jail and was subsequently killed in a case which remains unsolved and a number of other family members were also killed.

He was on the first day of a family holiday to Portugal accompanied by his wife and four children who are all aged under 12. It is understood he last visited Portugal two months earlier and is believed to have business interests that have taken him to Portugal a number of times where he has previously never had any difficulties.

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 and a follow up meeting he had a week later in Delhi with the Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock and it was reported Indian investigative agencies requested assistance with extraditions.

In November, following a 10-year ban by the British authorities the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the UK with much fanfare and was met with considerable opposition highlighting the growing intolerance and treatment of minorities in India. He reacted angrily to protests against him and issues raised by BBC correspondent Justin Rowlatt and Nicholas Watt from the Guardian in the official press conference with David Cameron.

The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Labour Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn are also understood to have formally raised a number of concerns in their meetings with Narendra Modi and were met with a negative reaction. Narendra Modi handed David Cameron a ‘dossier’ demanding action against the Sikh community – names of Gurdwaras (places of worship), Sikh organisations, Sikh TV channels and several individuals where India raised concerns were reported in the Indian press.

The UK Government has a direct responsibility for Paramjeet Singh who is being unfairly held in Portugal and been in prison for the last 11 days. He travelled to Portugal on holiday with his family using a travel document issued by the UK Government under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

EU member states have to date taken a firm stand prohibiting extradition to a country still retaining the death penalty. India continues to send people to the gallows with the last hanging earlier this year in July 2015. The European Parliament has passed a number of resolutions on the use of the death penalty in India and with respect to Professor Devinderpal Singh Bhullar who was illegally deported from Germany in 1995, sentenced to death and still remains in prison. These resolutions have been sent to the Portuguese Parliament and can not be ignored.

The Sikh Federation (UK) is also leading the lobby at the European level with MEPs across Europe, approached Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Subcommittee on Human Rights.

Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said:

“There should be no question of his extradition to India by Portugal given he has been granted political asylum in the UK. In fact Britain should be insisting upon his immediate return to the UK to be with his family and where he has been given indefinite leave to remain.”

“This case raises much broader political issues, including the political sovereignty of the UK in such matters and the rights of those that have been given political asylum by the UK Government to freely travel abroad, especially in EU countries.”

“There is a risk this sets a worrying precedent that allows foreign governments to take similar actions against others that have been granted political asylum and is a major cause of concern.”

“The UK Government alongside Portugal could stand accused of a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights if Paramjeet Singh was extradited to India where he will almost certainly be subject to torture and possible death.”

“We applaud the efforts of Paramjeet Singh’s MP John Spellar who has received dozens of enquiries and support from other MPs. Several Conservative MPs, including Ministers, have suggested the Foreign Secretary urgently meet with us, Paramjeet Singh’s wife and his lawyers or at least issue a public statement calling for Paramjeet Singh’s immediate return to the UK.”

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