On Friday, February 12th 2016, Paramjeet Singh Saini was released by Portuguese authorities after eight weeks in prison and allowed to return his home in England.
Living in the UK as a refugee from India, Paramjeet visited Portugal for a holiday with his wife and four young children on December 18th. He was arrested a day later due to an Interpol red-flag notice against his name, stemming from allegations of terrorism made by the Indian government.
Paramjeet Singh said “I would like to say thank you to all of the people who stood up for me, all of the MPs, politicians and all of the communities. Please continue to stand against injustice wherever it happens in the world. I will continue to remain an activist and a Sikh nationalist.”
He also added, “If India wishes to continue to accuse me of these crimes I am not absconding. I remain here in the UK.”
Paramjeet was arrested due to still being wanted in India in relation to alleged connections with acts of terrorism, most notably the murder of Rulda Singh, head of the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, a wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). These accusations have been made despite the fact that Paramjeet has not been in India himself since 1999.
Paramjeet was officially granted refugee asylum status in Britain in 2002 after it was agreed he had reason to fear for his life in his home nation of India. Paramjeet has accused Indian authorities of torturing him for his political views. Paramjeet’s brother was killed during arrest in India. Paramjeet now lives in the Midlands with his wife and children, all of whom were born in England.
Paramjeet Singh said that messages of hope from his family and his children kept him positive during his time in detainment in Portugal.
“My nine year old said ‘Dad don’t worry, the Sikh community are with you. When he said this I knew God would see me through this and I remained positive about returning to my home in England”.
Paramjeet’s local councillor Preet Kaur Shergill played a tireless role in lobbying to get him home. After the news of release she commented, “I am so ecstatic that Portugal have delivered justice for Paramjeet Singh and his family. The Sikh community came together and have campaigned for the human rights of not only Paramjeet Singh but for all refugees, who all should have freedom to move within the EU.”
Paramjeet’s solicitor Amarjit Singh Bachu said “There was nto a level playing field set out by India but justice and truth prevailed, so we are delighted with the outcome.”
Warley MP John Spellar, who has led the campaign for Mr Saini’s release in the House of Commons, said, “Justice has been done and this is great news. We look forward to welcoming him back to the UK, especially his children who told me how much they were missing their father.”
Human Rights Advocacy group Sikhs For Justice sent their legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannu from the USA to oversee the legalities of the case. A social media statement from the organisation said “SFJ would like to thank everyone who signed a petition, called their local elected official, took part in rallies, or simply kept Bhai Pamma and his family in their prayers… because of all your hard work an innocent Sikh has been saved from Indian torture!!”
Manuel Ferreira, Paramjeet’s lawyer, said “The Sikh community has been key in this victory. Everyone gave what they could for this case and that made a difference.”
Paramjit Kaur Matharu of the Sikh Council who helped organise Paramjeet’s legal defence said “The contribution of politicians from across the political spectrum in the UK and Europe played a big role in highlighting this as a major issue for people of all backgrounds who have been granted asylum by an EU member state.”
Humanitarian Aid charity Sikh Relief who set up a fund for Paramjeet’s case and family whilst he was being detained stated “Sikh Relief would like to thank the legal team, Members of Parliment, Political Party leaders, all the panthic organisations , the worldwide community and the Sikh media for their support of the release and return of Paramjeet Singh Pamma reuniting him with his family in the UK.”
The Sikh Federation who had been lobbying politically for Paramjeet’s freedom said “This is very embarrassing and shameful for the Indian authorities who played every card to have Paramjeet Singh extradited to India to face more falsified charges. This case is a landmark statement that justice and freedom cannot be bought or sold by the corrupt India state as easily as it once was.”