After Headley, Tiger Hanif to be test case for UK-India extradition

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

London : Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram left for home Tuesday after meeting key British ministers days before a British judge is to rule on India’s request to extradite Tiger Hanif, a key suspect in the 1993 Surat twin bomb blasts.

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Documents containing Indian evidence against Hanif, 49, are understood to have been handed over to British authorities ahead of his appearance at Westminster Magistrates’ Court Thursday and an extradition ruling that could come as early as April 1.

Unusually, the details of Chidambaram’s visit to London were kept under wraps and he had no interaction with the media.

Chidambaram met British Foreign Minister David Miliband and Home Minister Alan Johnson Tuesday for what were described by Johnson as talks about counter-terrorism.

“We both recognise that terrorism is a shared threat and defeating it requires the efforts of the wider community as well as security and law enforcement agencies in both our countries,” said Johnson in what was the only statement issued by either side.

“The close relationships between our countries allow us to work together on these issues and we are committed to finding ways in which we can strengthen cooperation still further,” Johnson added.

A spokeswoman for the foreign office said Chidambaram and Miliband discussed “bilateral issues”.

Johnson’s words will assume significance in the backdrop of efforts by New Delhi to secure the extradition of Tiger Hanif, arrested Feb 16 in the northern English town of Bolton where he had been working in a grocery shop as Mohammed Patel.

The extradition of Hanif, who fled to Britain in the aftermath of the Surat blasts that killed an eight-year-old girl and injured 38, is a test case for counter-terrorism cooperation between London and New Delhi.

If New Delhi is successful in gaining Hanif’s extradition, it will mark a first in ties between the two countries and bring an end to a patchy record on extraditions.

New Delhi’s previous extradition request – for Bollywood music composer Nadeem Akhtar Saifi for the 1997 murder of T-Series owner Gulshan Kumar – was rejected by a British court and the House of Lords.

Saifi – part of the Nadeem-Shravan music duo – successfully argued that Mumbai police had tortured a witness to extract evidence against him and that the force was biased against Muslims.

Acquitted by a Mumbai court, he now lives in a Northwest London suburb and has not been back to India since 1997.

The extradition treaty between India and Britain was signed in 1992 – eight years after the abduction and execution of Indian diplomat Ravindra Mhatre by militants of the Jammu Kashmir Liberal Front (JKLF) in the city of Birmingham.

Three men were arrested and convicted for varying jail terms in Britain before being released for the 1984 killing. In 2004, a fourth suspect was found to be living in the US and deported to Britain, where he was acquitted by a Birmingham court a year later.

In the absence of an extradition treaty, Britain deported JKLF leader Amanullah Khan, who now lives in Pakistan.