Detained Sikh's case will go to European court

MATTHEW BRACE

The British government has been unanimously criticised by the European Human Rights Commission for its treatment of a prominent Sikh who has been in Bedford prison for five years while awaiting deportation.

Karamjit Singh Chahal, 47, has claimed he would be tortured if he was deported to India but his calls for political asylum have been rejected by the Government. Ministers insist he is a risk to national security because of his political activities.

Mr Chahal has supported the movement for an independent Sikh homeland and has twice been charged in the UK with criminal offences arising out of his activities here.

On the first occasion he was acquitted and in the second the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction in 1992.

But a report from the European Human Rights Commission unanimously criticised the British Government for breaching articles in the European Convention on Human Rights which outlaw inhuman and degrading treatment, ensure liberty and security, the right to family life and the right to an effective remedy in the British courts.

The commission ruled that Mr Chahal would be subject to torture or other forms of abuse if he was sent back to India. He entered the UK illegally in 1971 and in 1974 he was granted indefinite leave to remain by the Home Office under the terms of an amnesty for illegal entrants.

However, he was considered a risk to national security and detained on August 14, 1990, and has remained in custody ever since.

He is a prominent religious figure in the affairs of British Sikhs since 1984 and has been involved in the running of a number of Sikh temples.

His case will now be heard by the European Court of Human Rights.

Supporters of Mr Chahal were delighted with the decision of the Commission."We feel the UK Government is not only in breach of fundamental human rights but also in breach of the principles of the British people," said a spokesman last night."

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