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Downscale Salem charges: CBI

In its final attempt to prevent underworld don Abu Salem from being sent back to Portugal, the CBI has asked the government to speed up efforts in Indian courts for withdrawing charges against him, punishable with death or a jail term of more than 25 years.

delhi Updated: Feb 20, 2012 01:33 IST

In its final attempt to prevent underworld don Abu Salem from being sent back to Portugal, the CBI has asked the government to speed up efforts in Indian courts for withdrawing charges against him, punishable with death or a jail term of more than 25 years.

The confidential CBI letter to the ministries of home, external affairs and law follows a communication from the Indian embassy at Lisbon, which has informed the investigating agency about the top Portugese constitutional court having admitted its appeal against the Supreme Court verdict there.

"It has been conveyed to us on February 14 that now our lawyers will have to present written arguments within 15 days. These will be restricted to the question of legitimacy to be decided by the constitutional court based on Portugese law," the CBI wrote to the three ministries.

"If our appeal is accepted, then the question of alleged violations (of extradition conditions) will be taken up. Our lawyers in Lisbon want the efforts to withdraw additional charges should be expedited," the CBI stated.

The CBI's appeal is against the Portugese Supreme Court's 17 January decision, upholding a verdict passed by the country's lower court in last September to cancel the extradition of Salem to India in October 2005.http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/20feb_pg8a.jpg

Salem, one of the prime accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, in which 257 people were killed and 713 injured, was first arrested in Portugal in 2002 with his girlfriend Monica Bedi.

After a three year-long legal battle and diplomatic lobbying, Salem was extradited to India, after the government gave an undertaking that he would not be charged with any offence punishable with either a death sentence or more than 25 years in prison.

The situation changed after Salem was brought to India, since he was wanted in many cases of murder and extortion. Both the Delhi and Mumbai Police charged him under various stringent provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).

The government has now approached the Delhi high court seeking dropping of MCOCA charges against Salem, which carry a death penalty.

The high court reserved its verdict on February 9 on the government plea that it be allowed to drop these charges and the matter be disposed off quickly to prevent the entire "extradition process from going into jeopardy.

In further relief for Salem, the Supreme Court had on Friday stayed the trial against him in two cases in a special Mumbai court following the latest developments in Portugese courts.

What is the Abu Salem controversy?
On the run since1993 Mumbai serial blasts, Salem was arrested in Portugal with his girlfriend Monica Bedi for travelling on fake passports.

Alerted by Interpol, India sought Salem's extradition from Portugal and suceeded in 2005 after giving an undertaking that he would not be given a death sentence.

The Indian courts refused to accept the government's undertaking and charged him with offences punishable with death and life imprisonment.

In September last, a Portugal court ruled in favour of Salem that India had violated the extradition conditions.

Portugal Supreme Court decided that "rule of speciality" which prohibits the prosecution of an extradited person for any offence committed prior to his surrender other than that for which he was extradited had been violated in India.