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Court stops Holck extradition to India

A court in Hillerød has overturned a decision to extradite Niels Holck to India on weapons smuggling charges.

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The Hillerød Court has overturned a Justice Ministry decision to extradite Niels Holck, a Dane who has admitted to air-dropping weapons in India, to Indian justice.

The judge said that there was a single reason for the decision not to accept the Justice Ministry’s decision to extradite Holck – the risk of “rough treatment”.

The Hillerød decision was immediately appealed by the prosecution.

Denmark’s Justice Ministry decided in April this year that the 48-year-old Dane could be extradited to India. The Justice Ministry decision was in contrast to then Justice Minister and now Foreign Minister Lene Espersen’s statements to parliament that he could not be extradited. Holck’s defence has repeatedly contended that he would suffer harsh treatment if extradited to India.

India accuses Holck of being one of a group that dropped weapons near the town of Purulia in West Bengal in 1995. It has never been ascertained exactly who the weapons were destined for. India has severally suggested that they were destined for the Ananda Marga organisation or rebels in North-east India allegedly supported by Bangladesh.

Latvian aircraft
Weapons, including Kalashnikovs, sniper rifles and anti-tank weapons were dropped over Purulia on December 17, 1995 from a Latvian registered and crewed Antonov An-26 aircraft that had taken off from Burgas in Bulgaria.

Purulia inhabitants contacted local police after finding some of the weapons, by which time the aircraft had continued to Thailand. On its return, however, it entered Indian air space and was forced to land in Mumbai by Indian Air Force jets. The crew and a British national Peter Bleach were arrested.

One passenger, alleged to be Niels Holck, managed to escape from the airport, eventually reaching Nepal where he caught a plane for Frankfurt. Holck is reported to have said that the weapons were destined for villagers in order to defend themselves against Indian forces.

Holck was formerly known as Niels Christian Nielsen. In an interview with the Danish Broadcasting Corporation in 2007, Holck suggested the weapons had indeed been destined for Ananda Marg.

“I took part in challenging a government that oppresses its citizens and I wanted to help this spiritual movement. I believe that everyone has a right to defend themselves if they are oppressed,” he was quoted as saying.

In 2002, shortly after Denmark had changed its extradition laws in connection with changes to its terrorist legislation complex, India called for Holck’s extradition to face charges.

The Danish Justice Ministry placed conditions on Holck’s extradition. These included that he could not be given the death penalty, that he could serve his sentence in Denmark, that torture may not be used against him, that the Danish embassy should have access to him in prison during the case and that Indian authorities should inform the Justice Ministry in Denmark of the progress of the case.

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