NGO to aim to block Thai extradition of Indian national

- Warns torture, death sentence among risks if Thailand extradites Jagtar Singh, convicted in killing of Indian minister.

BANGKOK (AA) - A United States-based human rights organization has announced it plans to try and block the extradition from Thailand of an Indian national convicted of a 1995 attack in Punjab that killed a state chief minister and 17 other people.

Jagtar Singh - nicknamed “Tara” - was captured Jan. 5 in the Thai seaside resort of Pattaya during a raid by local police accompanied by Indian officials. Following a request by the Indian government, a Thai court issued an extradition order for Singh the next day.

The 37-year-old was sentenced to life imprisonment in India in 1996 for having masterminded a suicide bombing attack against Punjab state chief minister Beant Singh, only for him to escape from a high security prison in Chandigarh city with three of his accomplices in 2004.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to the Sikhs for Justice rights group, told The Anadolu Agency on Wednesday, “[Singh] must not be extradited. If he goes there, they will torture him and will make him sign a confession.”

He added, “What awaits him in India is solitary confinement, a one-day trial and a death sentence.”

Pannun, who visited Singh in a Thai jail, said he had been “misled by Indian officials to sign a document saying that he wanted to fight his case in India.”

“They told him that he had no rights whatsoever in Thailand, that he was on his own and that nobody would help him.”

The legal advisor also expressed his surprise that Indian officials accompanied Thai police during the raid earlier this month as Singh had a Pakistani passport.

“If anybody should have been there, it should have been Pakistani officials,” he told AA.

Sikhs for Justice has hired Thai attorneys to challenge the extradition order in court.

“Tara’s extradition to India would be in violation of UN convention because if extradited he will possibly face death sentence in India,” the group stated in a release Tuesday.

“We will submit documentary evidence to Thai court proving ongoing torture on Sikh detainees in India.”

Aware that Singh was hiding in Thailand after spending several years in Pakistan following his prison break, Indian authorities had sought the cooperation of Thai officials.

An Indian court had ruled that Singh was a member of the Babbar Khalsa Sikh militant group at the time of the 1995 attack, saying he organized the bombing against Beant, the 73-year-old Punjab chief who had overseen a crackdown on armed Sikh militants.

The minister’s car and two escort vehicles were torn to pieces in the blast which killed 18 people.

Singh is alleged to have later joined the Khalistan Tiger Force, another Sikh armed group.

Aware that Singh had been hiding in Thailand since the middle of last year, Indian authorities had sought the cooperation of Thai officials.

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