Timing of middleman Michel's extradition questioned

PM Modi has been using the extradition as a political plank

By Anita Joshua in New Delhi
  • Published 7.12.18, 4:28 AM
  • Updated 7.12.18, 4:56 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Christian Michel: extradited to India just in time? Prem Singh

The external affairs ministry on Thursday billed the extradition of Christian Michel, alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland scandal, as a reflection of the close cooperation between India and the UAE even as a former ambassador questioned its politicisation “by a compact” with the Gulf country ahead of polling in Rajasthan and Telangana.

K.C. Singh, who headed India’s mission in Abu Dhabi for four years, kicked up a Twitter storm by suggesting that the Emirates government may have “let themselves be used in Indian domestic politics”.

His comments drew the ire of the troll army, more so given his association with the Rashtra Manch, a political action group launched by Narendra Modi-Amit Shah-baiters Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha.

But Singh told The Telegraph that extradition is always a quasi-judicial process. “After a court orders an extradition, it always goes back to the political leadership. In this case, the court cleared Michel’s extradition on November 19. Why did they wait till December 4 to extradite him?”

After his initial tweet — “UAE are shrewd enough to realise that #MichelExtradited today will be used in crucial Indian domestic elections against @INCIndia. Appearing partisan in domestic Indian politics is risky business for future relations” — stirred a hornet’s nest, Singh clarified that he was “delighted” by the extradition and was only objecting to “its politicisation by a compact with UAE”.

Pointing out that the system in the UAE is nowhere akin to that of the US, where the court’s ruling is binding on the President, Singh cited the recent example of the Emirates government pardoning and sending back British academic Matthew Hedges who was sentenced to a lifetime behind bars for espionage.

Ultimately it is the ruler who decides in the UAE, he said, adding that “extradition is a diplomatic-legal act and timing it on the last day of Indian political campaign may hurt Congress and be remembered”.

In April this year, there were media reports that Dubai princess Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, whose father is the UAE Prime Minister, had tried to escape the country by sea but her yacht was stopped by Indian forces off the coast of Goa and she was taken back home.

The British high commission in New Delhi has sought consular access to Michel. Confirming this, foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said: “The request is being examined by the ministry, and we will revert to the British high commission very soon.’’

Asked for a blow-by-blow account of the final leg of the extradition at a news conference, all that Kumar was willing to state was that Michel was extradited “following due process and exhaustion of judicial process”.

BJP leaders, beginning with Prime Minister Modi, have since Wednesday been using the extradition as a political plank, even suggesting at an election rally that Michel would reveal some “Gandhi family secrets”.

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