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US working with India on Salem case
rediff News Bureau | December 16, 2002 09:50 IST
"The US and India have worked together closely in a prominent counter-terrorism case -- Abu Salem Ansari, an associate of [Indian fugitive gangster] Dawood Ibrahim. Following his arrest in Portugal we have worked together to secure his extradition to India," US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Christine B Rocca told India Abroad National Affairs Editor Aziz Haniffa in an exclusive interview to be published in the newspaper this weekend. India Abroad is owned by rediff.com
This is the first time a US official has acknowledged that Washington is working closely with New Delhi on the Abu Salem case. Soon after the gangster's arrest in Lisbon there was speculation that Interpol and Portuguese law enforcement officials had picked up Salem on a tipoff from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Salem's involvement in real estate in the American Midwest, it was said, had provoked the FBI's curiousity and the belief that the Pakistan-based gangster may have links with Al Qaeda.
Salem's custody in Lisbon was extended this weekend by three months pending the Indian request that for extradition. It is understood that a Central Bureau of Investigation team is in Lisbon with a statement clarifying that Salem will not face the death penalty even if the multiple charges against him are proved in Indian courts. Portuguese law forbids extradition to any country where a prisoner could face capital punishment.
A Lisbon court will take up the Indian request for Salem's extradition on Monday.
Salem and his companion Monica Bedi were arrested in Lisbon on September 20 on charges that they possessed false documents.
The CBI provided Portuguese officials with Salem's fingerprints a few weeks ago to disprove his lawyer's contention that the man arrested in Lisbon was not Salem, but a Pakistani national.
US intervention in the Salem case may mean that the Indian government could have better luck extraditing the fugitive than it did in two cases last week. The CBI's attempt to extradite Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrochi, an accused in the Bofors payoff case, was thwarted in a Malaysian court. Then, authorities in the United Arab Emirates released Anees Ibrahim, Dawood Ibrahim's younger brother, before the Indian government could produce evidence against him, to facilitate his extradition. Anees Ibrahim was deported to Pakistan soon after his release.