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No extradition due to India torture fears

The Appeals Court has rejected a Justice Ministry call to extradite a Dane for weapons smuggling to India.

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A five-judge panel of the Danish High Court has unanimously upheld a lower court verdict not to extradite Niels Holck to India to face charges of weapons smuggling because he would risk inhumane treatment in India.

"As the charges against (Niels Holck) are of rebellion against the Indian authorities, the Court finds that extradition to face charges in India would involve a real risk that he would be subjected to treatment that contravenes the European Human Rights Convention Article 3,” the court said.

The court added India had not signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture and that it had elicited information from among others independent human rights organisations and government sources.

“There is information that in India there is a continued widespread and systematic use of torture and inhumane or degrading treatment of people in police and prison custody, and serious problems with killings and deaths among such people,” the Court said.

“I don’t really know what to think yet,” Niels Holck said adding it remained to be seen whether the prosecution would seek leave to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court.

Prosecuting Attorney Jørgen Jensen, who contested the case for the Justice Ministry, said he would now consider the verdict and discuss with the Justice Ministry whether to proceed to the Supreme Court.

Denmark’s Justice Ministry initially gave the green light to extradition on strict terms for Holck’s welfare, including an undertaking that he would not be given a death sentence, that he could serve his sentence in Denmark, that torture may not be used against him and that the Danish embassy should have access to him during the case. Holck successfully argued, however, in the lower court that he would not be fairly treated.

India accuses Holck of being one of a group that dropped weapons near the town of Purulia in West Bengal in 1995. 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 it entered Indian air space and was forced to land in Mumbai by Indian Air Force jets, but Holck managed to escape capture.

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