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Jailbreak suspect fights on against extradition to India, in Hong Kong appeal court

A Hong Kong resident of Indian ethnic origin is challenging a high court decision to allow his extradition to his native country over his alleged involvement with a jailbreak five years ago.

Ramanjit Singh’s case was heard at Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal on Friday, when a panel of judges considered whether extradition should apply to a person charged with assisting an escape from legal custody and two other related charges.

New Delhi won an earlier bid to bring Singh to an Indian court over 18 other charges, including possessing firearms and fake credit cards, and conspiracy to pervert justice.

The Indian government also wants to try Singh, 33, on charges related to his involvement in a jailbreak in 2016 when six inmates fled from a maximum-security prison in the northern state of Punjab. A local Hong Kong magistrate rejected the extradition application, but the city’s high court overturned the lower court last year.

Now Singh has launched an appeal against the high court decision. At issue is whether jailbreak-related charges qualify for extradition under the bilateral arrangements between Hong Kong and India.

Singh’s lawyers argued that Hong Kong’s high court erred in applying a “catch-all” provision under the bilateral agreement that allows extradition for offenses leading to imprisonment of at least one year, which would include the jailbreak-related charges. The lawyers said the specific offenses relating to the prison escape were not included on the list of 33 offenses.

However, appeal court Judge Kevin Zervos, one of three judges presiding over the case, questioned that rationale, saying discretion should be used when handling serious crimes, and respect given to another jurisdiction seeking extradition to enable it to exercise the rule of law.

The court has reserved judgment until a later date.

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