Dhaka faces judicial hurdle on releasing Indian militants

February 21st, 2009 - 4:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Feb 21 (IANS) Bangladesh faces a legal hurdle in handing over Anup Chetia and two other Indian separatist leaders jailed in this country for the past 13 years as it is yet to respond to a high court order on the trio’s asylum pleas, a media report Saturday said.
Successive governments have for over five years failed to respond to the high court order on the asylum pleas.

The present government too is yet to reply to a high court notice issued Aug 23, 2003 on United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) leader Anup Chetia’s application for asylum, the New Age newspaper said.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hassan Mahmood told an Indian TV channel earlier this week that “an understanding” had been reached between New Delhi and the Sheikh Hasina government on handing over Chetia.

However, the newspaper quoted unnamed officials of the home and foreign ministries as saying that they had received no clear orders. They were not even aware of the handover move.

Sources in the attorney general’s office told New Age that no reply had been filed to the court notice as they were yet to get any instructions from the home ministry on the issue.

Anup Chetia and his two associates, Laxmi Prasad Goswami and Babul Sharma, have been in a Bangladeshi prison since 1996 after being convicted in four cases.

They sought political asylum Aug 3, 1998, saying their lives would be endangered if they were sent back to India “as they had been fighting for the independence of the people of Assam”.

Getting no response from the government, the trio renewed their appeals Feb 27, 2000, March 13, 2001, and Aug 14, 2003.

A high court bench of judges M.A. Aziz and Syed Refaat Ahmed had Aug 23, 2003 asked the then government of prime minister Khaleda Zia to explain in four weeks why it should not dispose of the applications for political asylum as early as possible.

The court also ordered the government to keep the trio in prison as a measure of safe or protective custody till their appeals for political asylum could be disposed of.

The court passed the order after hearing a writ petition filed by a rights organisation, Bangladesh Society for Enforcement of Human Rights.

The rights body was headed by the wife of a powerful minister in the Zia government and campaigned against the three being handed over to India after their jail terms were completed.

There is no extradition treaty between Bangladesh and India.

Every time New Delhi seeks to negotiate with ULFA to reach a political settlement, the outfit demands that their “missing leaders” be brought back.

The Zia government, and later a caretaker government that ruled for two years, neither disposed of the appeals nor filed any reply to the high court.

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