Govt’s priority national interest not justice, says Jaleel Andrabi’s family

Srinagar: Reacting to the media reports that the government is making attempts to extradite former Indian Army Major Avtar Singh, who is wanted in the murder of human rights activist Jaleel Andrabi, his family has expressed doubts on the sincerity of the government which according to the family ‘always gives priority to the national interest over justice’.

“I don’t see it as a ray of hope. They will not do anything as it will spoil India’s global image,” said Arshid Andrabi, Jaleel’s brother and lawyer who is fighting the case in High Court since 1996.

“The Director, CBI in New Delhi is in-charge of Interpol affairs in India and to safe guard the national interest they don’t take interest in this case, that’s why instead of being in jail the accused in enjoying in a foreign country,” he said.

On February 21, a California based news channel, Action News reported on Avtar Singh’s presence in Selma locality of California. Singh who was in hiding since he left India was arrested on charges of domestic violence after his wife filed a police complaint.

Despite an Interpol red corner notice, the US State Department told the local police that it wasn’t necessary to hold Singh, who let Singh free on bail hours after his arrest. However, the local police say they will still keep a close vigil on his movements after fingerprints revealed his identity and an Interpol hold for Andrabi’s murder.

Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) in February 2010 had issued an Interpol red corner notice against Singh. The CJM had asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to get the warrants executed but the agency didn’t take any step to arrest or extradite him.

Jaleel’s brother and lawyer Arshid says, the Indian government got many opportunities to extradite Singh while he was in Canada and US but the Indian government didn’t show any interest.

“In 2005 the Canadian police requested the Indian government to provide details about him, since the police in Canada had located him. There was some hue and cry by Human rights groups and Amnesty International which forced Singh to shift his base to California,” said Arshid.

Adding, “In 2009 the California police wrote to the CJM court asking it to provide details about Singh but here in India, nothing was done to extradite him,” he said.

Arshid now plans to file a fresh petition before the court based on the news reports to issue orders to the government to extradite Singh.

“Yes, we will be moving court to get fresh orders in this regard,” he said.

However, a New Delhi based newspaper on Monday reported that Singh will be brought to India in next 15 days. The newspaper quoted Raja Ajaz Ali Inspector General, (IGP) Crime saying that the accused has been located in California.

“The US police informed the Interpol and in turn they communicated us. The accused is in the preventive custody of the US police in California and would shifted to Srinagar in fifteen days. We were asked by the Interpol and the US police to furnish fresh warrants against the accused and we have acquired the same from session’s court in Srinagar,” the newspaper quoted Ali as saying.

A source close to the case told Kashmir Dispatch that the team is yet to take up the matter with the US Embassy in New Delhi.

Major Avtar Singh of 35th Rashtriya Rifles, is accused of killing 11 persons including Andrabi according to a US state Department report in 2002 which says court action in cases of extrajudicial killings is slow and uncertain.

According to the investigations carried out by a police’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) on court orders, Singh along with government gunmen abducted Jaleel near Barazulla on airport road on March 8, when the activist was driving home along with his wife.

The Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association filed a habeas corpus petition in the High Court on March 9, and the court ordered the army to produce Andrabi. However, the army denied that Andrabi was in custody. Over the next two weeks, the court continued to grant the government extensions for replying to the petition.

The mutilated body of Andrabi was found in the Kursuraj Bagh, Srinagar on the banks of the Jhelum River on the morning of March 27, 1996. 42-year old Andrabi had been shot in the head and his eyes had been gouged out. An autopsy showed that he had been killed days after his arrest.

A case was registered under FIR No. 139/96 in police station Saddar, Srinagar and a case for the past 15 years is pending in the CJM Court.

In 1997, the investigation by Jammu and Kashmir police Special Investigations Team (SIT) confirmed that Avtar Singh is the prime accused in the Andrabi’s murder case. The CJM issued an order in the same year which stated, “Passport of Avtar Singh should be impounded and his photographs should be published in print media.”

According to the California based news channel, Singh owns several trucks and lives in Selma, Fresno County in California, USA. An exclusive video interview by the news channel correspondent Corin Hoggard showed Singh at his home. During the interview the reporter asked Singh: “Are you the same Avtar Singh who is wanted in Kashmir for the murder of prominent Lawyer Jaleel Andrabi?”

To which Singh replied, “It is alleged.”

Singh also claimed that the Islamic militants and Al-Qaeda wanted to kill him. He claimed his battalion was nowhere near the place where Andrabi was kidnapped. But because of the allegations, he’s afraid he’s a wanted man — not by the Indian government, but by al Qaeda.

“If I’m exposed on this, the Islamic militants, they’re already looking for me,” he told the news channel.