A Hong Kong resident challenging extradition to India has accused police officers in his native country of punishing him for supporting a separatist movement, through degrading torture that left him with extreme pain.
Ramanjit Singh, also known as Romi, said Punjab officers administered electric shocks to his genitals, overstretched his legs, and poured water over his face during his eight-day remand at a police station after he was arrested on suspicion of car theft in 2016.
“I felt extreme pain,” Singh wrote in an affidavit last month. “Until today there are still scars left.”
His counsel, Professor Simon Young Ngai-man, is relying on the accusations to invoke protection from the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance for his discharge from extradition proceedings at Eastern Court.
At issue is whether there are substantial grounds for the court to believe the prosecution and extradition request were in fact a smokescreen to cover the true purpose of prosecuting, or punishing, Singh for his religion or political beliefs.
The Indian government has demanded the 30-year-old’s surrender over two criminal cases in 2016, which they say involved the equivalent of 28 serious offences in Hong Kong.
Singh was accused of stealing a car from his uncle, carrying a revolver without licence and possessing fake car plates, debit and credit cards when he was arrested on June 4, 2016 in India. He was also accused of playing an essential role in a jail break that freed six inmates from a maximum-security prison on November 27, 2016, after he had jumped bail and fled to Hong Kong.
But in Tuesday’s hearing Young questioned whether the prosecutions were genuine, and instead drew the court’s attention to Singh’s background as a young Sikh, actively involved in a political party in support of the Khalistan Movement seeking the creation of an independent state for members of his religion in India.
Young said Singh joined his father in Hong Kong when he was eight in 1997 and became a permanent resident in 2005, a year after he quit school and began assisting social workers caring for underprivileged children in Cheung Sha Wan.
Before his remand in February last year, Singh was living in Kowloon with his girlfriend and two young children.
But the court also heard that Singh remained attached to his native country. In 2013, he became a member of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) political party, and took part in electoral campaigns to support party leaders advocating for an independent Sikh state.
“I became the target of police,” Singh said. “They attempted to arrest me three times, but in vein.”
However, when he returned to India three years later to join a social gathering initiated by a fellow Sikh, Singh was arrested for the alleged car theft just a day before the planned meeting.
Singh said he suspected officers had kept him in police remand for the sake of private punishment – to torture him for his political beliefs and religion.
He claimed he was subject to five kinds of torture at the hands of six to seven officers, including three who had targeted him back in 2013.
The treatment allegedly included slapping his face, hands and stomach, electrocution, stretching his legs in opposite directions, pouring water on his face, and hitting his head with slippers for 10 minutes.
Young said the statement was corroborated by Dr Alan Mitchell, an independent expert who found irregular linear scars in Singh’s inner thighs during an examination in Hong Kong.
“I believe Mr Singh has been tortured by the police in the way he described,” Mitchell said.
The counsel also cited a Canadian sociologist, who noted that the police killing of an inmate and an attacker involved in the jail break, “raises red flags about the safety of Romi”.
Singh said he “firmly believes” he would face death, torture or degrading treatment if he is sent back to India.
But Wayne Walsh SC, for the Indian government, complained that Young was effectively inviting the court to hear an application that should have been handled by the Immigration Department.
Walsh also challenged the admissibility of the expert evidence.
The hearing continues before Magistrate Pang Leung-ting on Wednesday.
This article Hong Kong resident fighting extradition to India claims he was waterboarded and given electric shocks during eight days of torture linked to his religious beliefs first appeared on South China Morning Post