And Portugal saves a terrorist’s life
Two years ago, Portugal’s refusal to extradite Abu Salem raised a question — could India rely on Europe as a partner in its own war against terrorism? In June 2004, the Portuguese Supreme Court turned down India’s request for his extradition, even after India agreed not to seek the death penalty in the course of his prosecution in Indian courts. But the case made its way through the Portuguese legal system until the constitutional court rejected Abu Salem’s appeal and cleared the way for his extradition. Abu Salem and his wife, Monica Bedi are now in Indian custody. If Portugal had failed to do this, it would have put itself in the same league as Mullah Omar, Pervez Musharraf and the old Muammar Gaddafi.
But what of the Indian government’s promise not to seek the death penalty in his case? This may be the first successful extradition from any European nation to India, but it has also set a precedent of ‘legal arbitrage’. If India wanted to secure the custody of Abu Salem, then it had no choice but to accept Portugal’s terms. Some have argued against accepting these terms, arguing that they would create a terrible precedent. While the precedent is indeed disturbing, it is not quite as disturbing as the Indian government giving up the chase for fear of creating a precedent. That too would have created a precedent, and a worse one than it intended to prevent.
For justice to be done, the exact form of punishment is not as important as the fact that criminals are made to stand a fair trial for their alleged crimes. So should it be with Abu Salem.