Assam doctor Mukul Hazarika, who was fighting against extradition to India on terror charges for allegedly being the chairman of the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) or ULFA (I), won his legal battle as he was granted relief by a UK court on Thursday.
Dr 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 draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.
The district judge Michael Snow’s judgment at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court ordered that the accused must be discharged as the particulars in the case were not satisfied.
The judge observed, “There is no admissible evidence that establishes that the defendant is Asom, the chairman of ULFA (I).”
Hazarika had been dubbed a “self-styled” chairman of ULFA, a banned militant group in the northeast of India.
He said, “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.”
Earlier it had been alleged that Hazarika was also known as Abhijit Asom and was involved in the recruitment of new “cadres” to ULFA, both inside and outside India, organizing terror camps for launching attacks on the Indian security forces, in an intent to wage war against the Indian government.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) barrister Ben Lloyd appeared on behalf of the Indian government last month.
Appearing for Dr. Hazarika, barrister Ben Cooper denied all the charges and asserted in the court that the case against him failed to get off the ground because of a “conspicuous absence of substantive evidence”.
Cooper said, “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.”
The other areas of focus in the case for the defence included grounds of human rights of it being oppressive to extradite the 75-year-old medically vulnerable GP to harsh Indian prison conditions and the delays to justice expected without bail on such a terror charge if he were to be extradited.
Thursday’s ruling noted, “I am satisfied that it is not oppressive or unjust to order his surrender.”
Meanwhile, since his arrest by the UK’s extradition unit officials in June last year, Hazarika was on bail under electronic tag curfew provisions. He will now be freed of those conditions.
He had been granted the permission to be located at a London address for the duration of the hearing by the court and will now return to Cleveland, where he is a senior partner at Queenstree Practice in Billingham.