Three British-Sikhs Freed After India’s Fabricated Extradition Case Fails
Dr. Narjeet Kaur
Recorded as a huge setback to the Indian government, which has been seeking extradition of three accused in 2009 Rashtriya Sikh Sangat (RSS) chief Rulda Singh murder case from the United Kingdom, the Crown Prosecution Service on Wednesday dropped charges against three British nationals Piara Singh Gill, Amritivir Singh Wahiwala and Gursharanvir Singh Wahiwala.
From September 22 to 23 three British Sikh men fought a battle against extradition from England to India , that could have possible aftermaths for all Sikhs and would have set a precedent for many to follow . The fate of the West Midlands 3 , who were arrested in December 2020 after being put up for extradition to India , was decided in the eagerly awaited trial that happened on this Wednesday , a day that will forever be imprinted in the Sikh history. Crowds gathered outside Westminster Magistrates' Court before the hearing in support of the men, from Coventry and Wolverhampton, who have been dubbed the West Midlands Three.
All the charges against the three were dismissed due to insufficient evidence. District Judge Michael Snow presided over an appeal hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London and ruled to discharge them. “The accused have been discharged,” said the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which appears in court on behalf of the Indian authorities. Mark Summers QC, representing Mr Gill and Gursharanvir Wahiwala, said the allegations against them were "wholly unjust" and they had been "pursued for 11 years without evidential basis".
Prosecutor Daniel Sternberg himself told the court the evidence was "not sufficient to make out a case to answer" for the men. In response, Mr Summers said the concession "accords entirely with what the Indian courts themselves said in 2015". A separate hearing to address human rights issues in the case is due to follow at a later date.
UK MP Zarah Sultana speaks in parliament about the fabricated case against the West Midlands 3. Zara stated that she stands in solidarity with the families of the West Midlands 3 and the Sikh community across the UK.
Lawyer and human rights activist Gareth Peirce clarified that the case was discharged not only due to the absence of evidence but also police officers in this case being used to support the prosecution having themselves been convicted of involvement in disappearances, torture and murder.
“After having been convicted, they continue to serve as police officers,” she said.
And one of those officers, we were astonished to note, was one of the officers identified by Mr Johal as having being involved in his torture. All of this is relevant to what steps can and should be taken by this government by this country in relation to the position of people such as Mr Johal, a British citizen in India at this time.”
“We hope what comes out of this is a recognition that it isn’t fitting to simply accept what a government says, but a duty to enquire far further,” Peirce added.
Recently UK MP Preet Kaur Gill wrote a letter to the Home Secretary demanding answers on extradition of West Midlands 3. Gill stated that “ According to the highly respected human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce, not only had the Indian authorities brought a case without evidence, but the prosecution had failed to tell the court that there had already been trials of other men in India in the same case and all had been acquitted. The prosecution had tried to reuse evidence that had already been judged in such cases to have been fabricated, as witnesses had been coerced.
History of The The West Midlands 3
The West Midlands 3 are British born Sikh Human Rights activists who were facing Extradition to India. Between 2005 to 2008 they carried out human rights based field research into extra judicial killings carried out by the Punjab police.
They interviewed families of those killed in fake encounters and then documented the names of the Punjab police officers involved in these crimes. Their research was published in a 2 volume book: Smoldering Embers (Voices for Freedom).
Due to their human rights work they are now being targeted in a fabricated extradition case, which was already investigated in 2010 by the UK authorities and was concluded with No Further Action. If they were extradited they would would have inevitably faced torture and potentially the death penalty.
The whole story actually goes back to December 2020, when Dominic Raab, former British Foreign Secretary, visited India. His visit accorded with the still ongoing Farmers’ Protest. The unjust and vehement clampdown of the demonstrators in India led many in the Sikh diaspora to highlight the injustice happening to the farmers to raise awareness in their countries. The protests tested the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in unprecedented ways, demanding the Union government to offer concessions to aggrieved farmers on new market-friendly laws that were intended to overhaul the country’s agriculture sector. Dominic Raab returned to Britain on December 18, 2020.
On December 21, 2020, three-family homes were raided by West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit officers. These were homes of three British-born Sikh men who were later arrested and transported to London for the alleged murder of a senior RSS member that took place more than a decade ago. According to the legal team of those arrested, the extradition warrants were signed by Home Secretary Priti Patel whilst her Conservative Party colleague Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was still in India for discussion with Indian officials on an “Enhanced Trade Partnership”. The arrests came just days after Raab had returned from the visit. Priti Patel, of Hindu Gujarati background just like Modi, has openly declared her support for the RSS and their role in Modi’s “vision for success”. What needs to be noted here is that these raids were not the consequence of any new-fangled indication or any continuing enquiry on the part of the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit or West Midlands Police.
The incidents that unfolded in the last few days have basically all the ingredients of a huge story. We heard about the fictitious substantiation, party-political conspiracy, misappropriation of forces, outbreaks on human rights and civil liberties, and big support of Sikh diasporas. It is sad to see that the story didn’t even make the waves it should have and was botched up to save faces for the governments.