Justice sought for husband on death row

Surrey‘s Navneet Kaur hopes her husband’s case in India, where he’s facing the death penalty, is reopened.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG , Vancouver Desi

Navneet Kaur envisioned her marriage spent alongside a loving husband, watching children grow up. But instead, she shares her Surrey with her parents and has spent more than 20 years travelling back and forth to India, where she’s watched her husband’s health decline in a prison, where she and many others believe he’s being wrongfully held.

“Now he (is) mentally ill … he doesn’t recognize me,” she told Vancouver Desi on Wednesday. “I lost all those … golden years and everything and still justice has not been provided.”

Kaur married Devinderpal Singh Bhullar in India in the early 1990s, but the newlyweds were quickly torn apart when Bhullar, a college professor in Punjab, was alleged to be involved in a 1993 Delhi car-bombing that killed nine people.

He remained underground in Germany until 1994, when he planned to join his wife in Canada. But Germany deported him to India, where he was accused of plotting the terror attack.

In 2001, he was sentenced to death.

He spent 10 years in solitary confinement, which resulted in his mental instability and transfer to a psychiatric facility. Kaur has filed countless petitions and sat through endless trials hoping to prove her husband’s innocence – to no avail.

But she’s finally been given a new glimmer of hope as, according to Indian news agency IANS, the Supreme Court of India framed new guidelines for death-row convicts . The new ruling saw 15 inmates’ death sentences switch to life imprisonment based on long delays in court decisions or mental instability. Bhullar fits both criteria.

But Kaur hopes the guidelines will also lead to the reopening of his case.

“He hasn’t done anything (wrong) … he got tortured, they forced him to confess,” she said, adding that his thumbprint was forcefully used to sign a blank sheet of paper instead of his signature.

According to the World Sikh Organization (WSO) of Canada, which has been helping in the case, Bhullar’s last trial saw one of three judges acquit him, claiming there was no evidence, including that none of the 133 witnesses even identified him as a suspect. But the other two judges used Bhullar’s forced confession to sentence him to death.

“It’s really shocking to the conscious that someone who’s mentally ill, that’s been in prison for 20 years and one of the judges that convicted him is saying, ‘Yeah, I don’t think he was actually involved,’ is still going to be executed by the Indian state,” said Balpreet Singh of the WSO in Toronto.

Kaur is now unable to travel to health issues, so as she awaits yet another court decision, she’s left half a world away, hoping she’ll one day be able to live the married life she once imagined.

“I believe in God, (so) I hope so,” she said when asked if she thinks they’ll ever be reunited.

“At least in old age.”

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