HK magistrate bars Ramanjit ‘Romi’ Singh from lodging torture claim against Indian authorities in Eastern Court extradition hearing

07-Jun-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

A Hong Kong resident facing extradition to India was barred on Wednesday from making a torture claim in court after a magistrate sided with the government by ruling that the matter was reserved for the Immigration Department.

Magistrate Pang Leung-ting said the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance does not permit parallel proceedings in his court and through the department, as he threw out Ramanjit Singh’s attempt to challenge his extradition with claims that he risks brutal treatment if returned to the country of his birth.

The ruling meant Singh, also known as Romi, would have to abandon his reliance on the Hong Kong Bill of Rights and focus his challenge on invoking protection from the ordinance itself, which would require him to demonstrate that the offences he stands accused of were merely a smokescreen for political persecution.

The Indian government is seeking the 30-year-old’s surrender over two criminal cases in 2016, which they say involved the equivalent of 28 serious offences in Hong Kong, including theft, fraud, possession of firearms, escape from lawful custody as well as conspiracy, aiding and abetting charges.

But earlier accusations of attempted murder, terrorism and drug-related charges were excluded from the present proceedings after the authorities found there was insufficient evidence to support prosecution.

Wayne Walsh SC, for the government, said: “Despite what the Indian government wants to prosecute, we need to look at it through Hong Kong eyes to see if they make out Hong Kong offences.”

At this stage, the Indian government must demonstrate it has sufficient evidence for the magistrate to commit Singh to custody to await the chief executive’s decision on surrender.

Singh was seen smiling in the dock as his Punjabi interpreter translated Walsh’s detailed account of the Indian government’s accusations.

Eastern Court heard that the Indian national had been found carrying a revolver with nine live cartridges when local police intercepted him and two others in a stolen car on June 4, 2016.

Officers also found the trio had two fake number plates and 19 debit and credit cards in their obsession.

Singh was subsequently locked in a maximum-security prison after he reportedly told investigators he was involved in providing funds to jailed gangsters.

Walsh said Singh then participated in meetings with the other inmates, during which he allegedly said he would go to Hong Kong once out on bail and help the others escape.

Singh was granted bail on August 4, 2016, but failed to surrender.

Instead he fled to Hong Kong, where he allegedly transferred tens of thousands of rupees to India to fund purchases of firearms and ammunition.

The recipient of those funds later participated in a jail break on November 27, 2016, during which armed attackers gained entry by disguising as police officers escorting prisoners and released six inmates, Walsh said.

Singh is expected to argue that allegations of escaping custody do not fall under the offences defined in Hong Kong’s extradition agreement with India.

His counsel, Professor Simon Young Ngai-man, urged the court to hear evidence of his past torture, saying they had an independent expert, Dr Alan Mitchell, who examined him in Hong Kong, confirming that he was a victim.

Young also hinted they had engaged a sociologist and two lawyers who could help explain how the treatment of his client was linked to a political purpose, given that Singh is a member of a party seeking the independence of Palestine.

“The same officers who were targeting him and his cousin in 2013 when they were engaged in political activities were involved in torturing him in 2016,” Young continued. “He will be tortured again.”

But Walsh immediately stood up to complain that Singh had ignored the court’s ruling not to make a torture claim through the back door.

“How my learned friend can make submissions he just made is beyond me,” Walsh said.

In his ruling on the torture issue, Pang said: “These matters should be dealt with separately by the Immigration Department.”

The hearing continues next Tuesday.


Category: Hong Kong

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