Jasveer Singh: Five Things To Know Before The #WestMidlands3 Trial
The #WestMidlands3 were arrested in December 2020 after being put up for extradition to India where they will likely face the death penalty
September 21, 2021 | 5 min. read | Original Reporting
From September 22 to 23 three British Sikh men will begin a battle against extradition from England to India that could have repercussions for all Sikhs. The #WestMidlands3 were arrested in December 2020 after being put up for extradition to India where they will likely face the death penalty.
The Indian State claims the men were involved in an attack on Rulda Singh, a member of the Hindutva extremist militant group the RSS, in 2009 - even though they were not in the country when the incident happened. It is believed, however, that the three actually came onto the Indian government’s radar when they were in Punjab, from 2005-2008, documenting evidence of the extrajudicial murder of Sikhs, specifically the Khanpur massacre. The trio helped create a book and mini-documentary on the incident which named some of the police officers behind the killings.
There is concern among the international Sikh community that should the extradition go through, it will open up the floodgates for regular extradition attempts to silence Sikh activists. Here are the five things all Sikh and human rights activists should know about the #WestMidlands3 case before it begins.
1) This is not the first time this has happened
Several Sikhs have had to fight extradition to India from within the UK.
Just this year in February a 44-year-old Sikh man won a battle against being extradited after a year of hearings. The man was said to be a member of the Khalistan Zindabad Force but UK authorities found no reason to extradite him to India.
In 2015 Sikh activist and current Sikhs For Justice Khalistan referendum advocate Paramjit Singh Pamma was arrested in Portugal whilst on holiday with his family, which included young children. The Indian State had managed to get Pamma flagged by Interpol for his support for the Khalistan movement, leading to Portugal detaining him with the thought to extradite him to India. Only mass public support from the UK, including from MP John Spellar and Preet Kaur Gill (who at the time was a councillor) led to Portugal releasing him back to England, where Pamma has residency and was previously cleared in regards to India’s allegations against him.
Just a year later, in 2016, another Sikh man deemed “of interest to Indian authorities” was given residency in the UK, despite terror allegations against him from the Indian State.
The #WestMidlands3 themselves were originally investigated by British authorities, based on the Indian State allegations, from 2009-2011, with the investigation concluding no further action was required against them, clearing them of any wrongdoing.
The case of Karamjit Singh Chahal is perhaps most concerning when it comes to the possible outcomes of this upcoming extradition hearing. Chahal was imprisoned in the UK from 1990-1996 whilst battling against his extradition after UK authorities decided he was a risk to national security, based on allegations by the Indian state. Only a ruling by the European Rights Court eventually freed him.
In all such cases though, there is nothing to stop the Indian government from repeating their extradition attempts, which is why the #WestMidlands3 have been targeted again, 10-years after they were first investigated and subsequently cleared for the allegations against them.
One thing that is new about the #WestMidlands3 case is that this is believed to be the first time British Sikhs – born and raised in England with British passports from birth – have been targeted in such a fashion by India.
2) Two of the three were investigated by UK Terror Police and cleared in 2018
Even after the #WestMidlands3 were cleared against the Indian State allegations against them in 2011, two of the three found themselves targeted in the 2018 #5SinghsUK raids.
The raids saw five Sikh activists raided by regional Police Terror Units in September 2018, which according to Indian media was done due to “diplomatic pressure” from India. Laptops, phones, and other personal items – including those belonging to the children of the men – were confiscated and kept for investigation for over a year.
Through these raids and the subsequent investigation, no charges were brought forward against two of the five.
Only one of the five had a criminal charge placed against him; an accusation of breaching Charities Commission regulations when doing seva for an organisation that was not a charity. The trial against him has been continually delayed and is currently set for 2022.
3) Their targeting is linked back to #JagtarSinghJohal
The 2018 raids were said to show a “paper trail” to Jagtar Singh Johal’s detainment in India, according to Gareth Peirce, the highly respected human rights lawyer that oversaw the case on behalf of the Singhs.
The fact that the #WestMidlands3 are again being targeted is believed to be linked to their work in providing support for the #FreeJaggiNow campaign. It is believed – as suggested by Gareth Peirce – that during his torture, Jagtar Singh Johal gave names of UK-based activists he worked with and that were supporting the #FreeJaggiNow.
4) They have legal support from the same lawyer defending Julian Assange’s extradition
Gareth Peirce, the legal advisor of the #WestMidlands3, is a very respected human rights lawyer known for working on the Guildford Four case, the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, and currently Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame.
Peirce is known as a legal professional that only takes cases of serious miscarriages of justice, indicating the magnitude of the #WestMidlands3 situation. Of her work, Peirce has said “We have lost our way in this country. We have entered a new dark age of injustice and it is frightening that we are overwhelmed by it. I know I am representing innocent people; innocent people who know that a jury they face will inevitably be predisposed to find them guilty.”
5) Many predicted Brexit would lead to this
In 2015 when The Sikh Press Association was gathering questions from within the community about the impact of Brexit on British Sikhs, many raised concerns about the potential of a closer relationship between the UK and India.
Concerns were based around the fact that in 1984 the UK decided to support India’s attack on Sikhs based on trade agreements between the two. There was also concern about Priti Patel’s influence as a senior Conservative MP when it comes to relations with India, given her open support of the RSS.
These concerns seem to now be validated, with the likes of Scottish National Party MP Martin Docherty-Hughes stating he believes “trade deals” with India are why the UK is not doing more for his constituent Jagtar Singh Johal. Meanwhile, Patel as Home Secretary signed off on the extradition attempt, allowing India to pursue the #WestMidlands3.
As such, with the post-Brexit trade relationship between India and the UK being cemented within the last year and also coinciding with the #WestMidlands3 extradition agreement from its beginning, there is great concern that should this extradition of the #WestMidlands3 go through, this could open up the floodgates for more targeting of Sikh activists by India, via the UK.
Jasveer Singh hails from Southall, UK, and is the Senior Press Officer of The Sikh Press Association, a position he has held since 2015. In this role, Jasveer works across all sectors of media supporting Sikh organisations and individuals on panthic endeavours. Jasveer previously worked as a freelance journalist which included stints with Sky News, Super Fight League, and more. You can find Jasveer on Twitter at @Jazzthejourno.
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