Thai authorities extradite man convicted over 1995 India bombing

BANGKOK - Thai authorities have extradited a man convicted of involvement in a bomb attack in India two decades ago, Thai police said on Friday, despite rights groups concerns he could be tortured back at home.

Gurmeet Singh, one of six Sikh militants convicted over the 1995 blast that killed 18 people, including the then-chief minister of the northern state of Punjab, fled a high-security prison in India in 2004 before being sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment in 2007.

Singh entered Thailand in October and was arrested by Thai police on Jan. 5.

Thai police had sought permission from Thailand's Supreme Court to send Singh back to India. They were given approval by the court on Thursday. "He was sent back yesterday at 8.30 p.m. It followed the court's procedure," said Police Lieutenant General Prawut Thawonrsiri, a spokesman for the Royal Thai Police.

Rights groups on Friday appealed to the Thai government to block Singh's extradition saying there was a "strong possibility" he would be tortured if sent back to India. "Ignoring the strong possibility of torture and death penalty to Tara, if he is extradited to India, will run counter to Thailand's obligation under the UN Convention Against Torture," Danthong Breen, a Thai rights activist, told reporters in Bangkok.

Beant Singh, the target of the 1995 attack, was the state's highest elected official. He became chief minister of Punjab, home to most Indian Sikhs, in 1992, and began crushing a Sikh militant movement that sought a separate homeland.