Saturday, October 19, 2019

Extradition of convict to Pakistan ‘casts shadow’ over India-Thailand ties

Oct 11. 2019
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha meets Indian Premier Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the 4th Bimstec Summit in Kathmandu on August 31, 2018. Photo courtesy: Press Information Bureau, Government of India
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha meets Indian Premier Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the 4th Bimstec Summit in Kathmandu on August 31, 2018. Photo courtesy: Press Information Bureau, Government of India
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By The Nation

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Thailand finds itself caught in the crossfire after a bitter battle in Bangkok between India and Pakistan for the extradition of a convicted criminal.

On Wednesday (October 9), Thailand sent Mohammed Saleem back to Pakistan after the Thai Appeal Court set aside a lower court ruling ordering his extradition to India, ending a three-year legal battle for custody.

India had claimed the convict was its citizen, Sayeed Muzakkir Mudassar Hussain, known by his assumed name Munna Jhingada, who was wanted for crimes in India and for his alleged ties with fugitive Dawood Ibrahim, the head of D-Company. Ibrahim figures in the FBI list of 10 most wanted fugitives.

An Indian government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said New Delhi was miffed by the outcome and feared the turn of events could cast a shadow over bilateral ties.

Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai is in New Delhi today (October 10) for a joint commission meeting. The source said the Indian government will strongly raise the extradition issue with him.

The source said India had attached huge importance to the case, and it had raised the issue with the highest authorities in Thailand for the last two years.

Saleem was convicted to 35 years in jail for murder after a botched assassination attempt on Indian gangster Chhota Rajan in Bangkok nearly two decades ago. Through separate pardons, his sentence was reduced to 16 years. He was released from prison in 2016, but India had already filed a request for his extradition in 2012.

Through the extradition, India was hoping to cement its claim that Pakistan is harbouring D-company chief Ibrahim, an accusation Pakistan has repeatedly denied.

India-Thailand ties have been on the upswing in recent years with some 1.6 million tourists visiting the Kingdom in 2018 and the number is expected to hit 2 million this year. Bilateral trade in 2018 amounted to $12.5 billion with Thailand enjoying a $4.5-billion trade surplus.

The lower court had accepted fingerprints from Indian police records dating back many decades when Hussain was booked for alleged crimes, as proof of his Indian citizenship when it ordered his extradition.

However, the Appeal Court overturned the ruling after one of the testifying Indian police officers pointed to his knowledge of a mole on the convict that could not be found.

The Indian government source said New Delhi had even offered to bring the convict’s parents to Thailand. “We offered to fly both his parents by a special jet so that Thai authorities could do DNA testing in Thailand. Unfortunately that offer was turned down.”

The source said while New Delhi fully respected Thailand’s justice system, it was shocked by the outcome.

The Indian embassy declined to comment on the case.

India had rushed to sign an extradition treaty after Thailand extradited to Pakistan another alleged D-Company enforcer, who India claimed was Yusuf Godhrawala, wanted for cases of murder and rioting in Gujarat.

The 2013 extradition treaty, ended 20 years of negotiations, and created a legal framework for the extradition of fugitive offenders, including those involved in terrorism, transnational crimes and economic offences.

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