London: An Indian-origin doctor from Assam fighting against being extradited to India on a terror charge for allegedly being chairman of the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) or ULFA (I) won his legal fight as he was discharged by a UK court on Thursday.
Dr Mukul Hazarika, 75, a British national and general practitioner (GP) from Cleveland in northern England, was sought by the Indian authorities to be prosecuted for “waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India and for conspiring to commit a terrorist act” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.
District Judge Michael Snow’s judgment at Westminster Magistrates’ Court said the accused must be discharged as the particulars in the case were not satisfied.
“There is no admissible evidence that establishes that the defendant is Asom, the chairman of ULFA (I),” the judge concluded.
Hazarika was dubbed a “self-styled” Chairman of ULFA, a banned terrorist organisation in India.
“I conclude that there is no admissible evidence that provides the essential identification that the defendant was the chairman of ULFA(I) or gave the speech at the training camp. I am satisfied that a tribunal of fact, properly directed, could not reasonably and properly find that the defendant was Asom or convict on the basis of the evidence. I discharge the defendant pursuant to s84(5) 2003 [Extradition] Act,” he said.
It had been alleged that Hazarika was also known as Abhijit Asom and was involved in recruiting new “cadres” to ULFA “in and outside India, organising terrorist camps for launching attacks on Indian security forces thereby intending to wage war against the Government of India”.
Amongst other activities, he was accused of involvement in the recruitment of members in and outside India, organising terrorist training camps for launching attacks on Indian security forces and civilians, and thereby the Indian government.
During a hearing last month (May), Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) barrister Ben Llloyd appeared on behalf of the Indian government.
All the charges were denied by the medical practitioner, whose barrister, Ben Cooper, asserted in court that the case against him “fails to get off the ground” because of a “conspicuous absence of substantive evidence”.
“He has a long background in human rights advocacy… Although trained as a doctor, he is committed to open dialogue to defend the human rights of the people of Assam,” said Cooper.
The other areas of focus in the case for the defence included human rights grounds of it being oppressive to extradite the 75-year-old medically vulnerable GP to harsh Indian prison conditions and the considerable delays to justice expected without bail on such a terror charge if he were to be extradited.
Many of these grounds were not considered relevant.
“I am satisfied that it is not oppressive or unjust to order his surrender,” Thursday’s ruling notes.
Meanwhile, Hazarika who was on bail under electronic tag curfew provisions since his arrest by the UK’s extradition unit officials in June last year will be freed of those conditions.
The court had granted him permission to be located at a London address for the duration of the hearing and will now return to Cleveland, where he is a Senior Partner at Queenstree Practice in Billingham.