A Sikh political prisoner from France has been released on bail after seven years in a prison in India thanks to the work of UK based humanitarian charity Sikh Relief.
Pal Singh, a French citizen and well-known human rights campaigner in Europe and America, was working in his native Punjab state in India, helping those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. It was during this work that Pal Singh was arrested by the Punjab Police which was reported by the Punjabi newspaper Daily Ajit to have been on 22nd July 2010.
Chairman of Sikh Relief, Balbir Singh Bains said: “It has taken years for the justice system to acknowledge the right to liberty of those who are demonstrably innocent, even if only granting bail pending appeal. The Indian justice system would benefit society greatly if it worked with an organisation like ours and helped heal the mistrust of a Sikh community that feels oppressed by the judiciary and political classes.”
In the immediate aftermath of Pal Singh’s arrest, the Punjab Police denied that he had been arrested, leading to the Sikh Relief legal team filing a case for Habeas Corpus on 26th July 2010. Only then was his detention confirmed. This is another example of similar cases where men have been detained illegally by the police in Punjab, with the arrests being denied often for weeks at a time. Allegations from within the Sikh community suggest this time window provides an opportunity for the police to torture the illegally detained suspects, which then results in forced “confessions”.
Pal Singh faced charges of terrorism in an evidently flawed trial and was sentenced. Thanks to Sikh Relief, he has now been freed on bail ahead of his appeal against the conviction, which is due next year.
Jagtar Singh Gill, Secretary General Elect of the Sikh Council UK said: “The Sikh Council welcomes the news that Bhai Pal Singh, a citizen of France, has been released on bail and commends the hard work and perseverance of Sikh Relief in assisting with the release.”