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SIKH FEDERATION (UK) URGES SIKHS IN GERMANY TO GET GERMAN GOVERNMENT TO RAISE CASE OF PROFESSOR BHULLAR AND TO IMMEDIATELY STOP CENSORSHIP OF THE FILM

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SIKH FEDERATION (UK) URGES SIKHS IN GERMANY TO GET GERMAN GOVERNMENT TO RAISE CASE OF PROFESSOR BHULLAR AND TO IMMEDIATELY STOP CENSORSHIP OF THE FILM SAADA HAQ WHEN MANMOHAN SINGH VISITS LATER THIS WEEK

8 April 2013

The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be visiting Germany on Wednesday for a 3-day visit. He will hold talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin from Wednesday. The main purpose of his visit is to get support for the India-European Union Foreign Trade Agreement (FTA).

The negotiations between the EU and India began 6 years ago in April 2007 and so far twelve rounds of negotiations have been held. The negotiations have been controversial and mostly held behind closed doors. Reportedly, one of the main roadblocks has been the EUs insistence on including non-trade issues (human rights issues and environmental and labour standards) in the FTA, to which India is strictly opposed. The EU continues to insist that India should improve its human rights, labour standards and animal welfare issues, amongst other non-trade concerns.

On 21 November 2012 India ended its unofficial eight-year moratorium on the death penalty when it hanged Ajmal Kasab. The Sikh Federation (UK) and its human rights wing Khalsa Human Rights have increased communications with the European Commission in Brussels and exerted greater pressure through Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) regarding the death penalty in India and other human rights concerns.

On 21 January 2013 the Sikh Federation (UK) led an EU-wide delegation of Sikh representatives in a meeting in Brussels with European Commission officials dealing with human rights and India. Following this meeting Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner met the Indian Foreign Minister on 30 January 2013. The planned India-EU Summit in Brussels that Manmohan Singh was to attend in February 2013 to finalise the FTA was then postponed for later in the year.

Since then India has again carried out the death penalty on 9 February 2013 by hanging Afzal Guru. In addition, Pranab Mukherjee, India's President, has broken all records and now ordered the death penalty for fourteen convicts in the last nine months. On Friday 5 April Amnesty International issued a world-wide Urgent Action appeal (UA 85/13: India: Indian prisoners at risk of imminent execution) that includes Balwant Singh Rajoana.

Bhai Amrik Singh, Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said:

We have contacted Sikh representatives in Germany about Manmohan Singhs visit later this week and were in Frankfurt a week earlier urging Sikhs in Germany to increase political pressure on the German Government regarding Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullars case given the German authorities illegally deported him in January 1995.

This is an excellent opportunity for Sikhs in Germany to join forces with Amnesty International and other international human rights groups to exert maximum pressure on the German Government to take up the issue of the death penalty and human rights abuses with the Indian Prime Minister.

In addition, this is an opportunity to work with anti-censorship groups and civil liberty groups in Germany about the controversial decision by state governments to ban the film Saada Haq in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi despite approval by the Censor Board. This is another violation of basic human rights on freedom of expression and cannot be justified.

Manmohan Singh needs to get a very clear message from the German Government and those living in Germany, including Sikhs, that its human rights record is getting worse and will not be tolerated by Member States of the European Union.

Gurjeet Singh

National Press Secretary

Sikh Federation (UK)

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Details of Amnesty International's a world-wide Urgent Action appeal (UA 85/13: India: Indian prisoners at risk of imminent execution) that includes Balwant Singh Rajoana is below:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA20/017/2013/en/1c2626dc-3def-419e-89a3-cf9d24da4dfe/asa200172013en.html

Frenck version is at the following link:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA20/017/2013/en/17fa23e4-2d63-4faf-9635-ed265a52f280/asa200172013fr.html

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“This government has executed more people since November 2012 than in the previous ten years. To continue such a regressive trend would be truly shameful,” said G. Ananthapadmanabhan, chief executive of Amnesty International India.

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UPA govt was split over decision to hang Bhullar

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Government file notings show the foreign ministry under K Natwar Singh favored commuting Bhullar's death penalty to life sentence.
NEW DELHI: After Germany deportedDevender Pal Singh Bhullar, the German president had sought a reprieve for the Khalistani terrorist awarded a death sentence for the attack on former Indian Youth Congress president Maninder Singh Bitta.

Bhullar was deported from Germany for travelling on fake documents as authorities there were unaware he could face charges that can result in a death penalty and his transfer to India was later held illegal by a German court. Regretting that Bhullar had been sent back to India, the German President wrote to his Indian counterpart seeking clemency for Bhullar.

The German president said his country along with European Union (EU) advocated abolition of death penalty.

Bhullar's case, however, is not similar to the 1993 Mumbai blasts' accused Abu Salem and the Italian marines' case, where India had committed not to execute the persons charged with crimes if they were convicted. There was no such promise made in the Bhullar case.

The information provided by the government also reveals that the government was split over the decision to hang Bhullar, echoing the split opinion of the Supreme Court bench. File notings show the foreign ministry under K Natwar Singh favored commuting Bhullar's death penalty to life sentence.

MEA's advice was, however, rejected by the ministry of home affairsthat felt bilateral relations could not be a factor in deciding issues involving the country's criminal justice system.

MEA's advice could have been prompted by a series of clemency pleas from Germany, the UK, the US and Indian politicians like former PM H D Deve Gowda and Rajya Sabha MP Ram Jethmalani.

Information accessed by SC Agrawal says, "... Several petitions from individuals and institutions, both domestic and foreign, were received seeking clemency for Devender Pal Singh Bhullar. Since some of these petitions were from prominent international personalities and organizations including President of Germany, members of EU, US Congress and UK House of Commons, MEA also considered the matter."

The government told Agrawal that "MEA, with the approval of the then EAM (K Natwar Singh) intimated the MHA that MEA was in favour commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment. The views of MEA were considered by the MHA. The plea of MEA was not accepted on the grounds that bilateral relations cannot be a deciding factor in the enforcement of criminal justice system in the country and that Devender Pal Singh being an Indian criminal, needed to be dealt by Indian laws and procedures and not be guided by extraneous factors."

Then home minister Shivraj Patil rejected Bhullar's mercy petition on July 7, 2005, and the file was submitted to then President APJ Abdul Kalam. The case was reviewed in 2011, when P Chidambaram became the home minister.

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