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Salem wife extradition request rejected

New Delhi, July 17: In a blow to the CBI, a Portuguese court has turned down its request to extradite Mumbai underworld don Abu Salemís actress wife.

Lisbon wrote to Delhi more than a week ago, informing it of the courtís decision not to extradite Monica Bedi since Portugal police wanted to prosecute her there. CBI sources said Portugal had decided to prosecute Monica in their own country since Delhi and Lisbon police had brought similar charges against her.

The CBI had sought Bediís extradition for forging documents to obtain passports from Bhopal and Hyderabad in the name of Sana Malik Kamal and Fauzia Usma. Lisbon police have registered a case against Salem, one of the prime accused in the 1993 Bombay blasts case, and Bedi on charges of travelling with fake documents.

The CBI had hoped Bedi would be extradited especially since Portugalís prosecutor-general had recommended to the justice ministry in mid-March that the couple be extradited. He did so after perusing documents placed before him by the bureau.

But a senior CBI officer tried to downplay the development. ďMonica Bedi is not so important for us. It would have been fine had she come here. Otherwise also, it doesnít make any difference. What we are waiting for is the big fish,Ē he said.

Salem and Bedi were arrested in Lisbon on September 18 following an Interpol Red Corner Notice issued at the CBIís behest.

The CBI will appeal against the decision in an appellate court in Portugal. The bureau has sought opinion from Morais Leitao and J. Galvio Teles, a Lisbon-based legal consultancy firm, on how to proceed with the appeal. The firm was hired by Delhi to assist the prosecutor-generalís office in fighting the case.

The CBI is also preparing to counter allegations levelled by Salem before the Portuguese court. Salem said he would be victimised if extradited to India as he was Muslim. Bureau officials have rubbished the allegations and are likely to argue that India is secular and democratic and that no one is prosecuted here of religion or caste.

Monica had raised similar objections to avoid extradition. She wanted to know if she would face harassment being a Muslim and asked if her case would be tried in a normal court or a special court.

Monica also asked in case she was convicted, what was the guarantee that the President would entertain her appeal against a death penalty or a life sentence exceeding 45 years.

This is the second major extradition request to be turned down in recent months. A Malaysian court turned down a CBI request in April to extradite Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, who is wanted in the Bofors case.

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