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Wife in Canada awaits justice

punjab Updated: Jan 24, 2014 13:46 IST

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

"Now he (is) mentally ill…he doesn't recognise me," she told Vancouver Desi on Wednesday. "Over here it's hard. I lost all those… golden years and everything and still justice has not been provided."

Navneet married Bhullar in India in the early 1990s, but the newlyweds were quickly torn apart when Bhullar 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 back to India, where he was accused of plotting the terror attack.

In 2001, nearly a decade later, he was sentenced to death. He spent 10 years in solitary confinement, which resulted in his mental instability and transfer to a psychiatric facility.

Navneet has filed countless petitions and sat through endless trials hoping to prove her husband's innocence, but to no avail.

But she's finally been given a new glimmer of hope as the Supreme Court has 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 Navneet hopes the guidelines will also lead to reopening of the case.

"He hasn't done anything (wrong)… he got tortured, they forced him to confess," she said, adding that his thumbprint was forcibly used to sign a blank sheet of paper instead of his signature. "He's not a terrorist - he was a professor. But they just turned his life (around) like that so fast."

According to the World Sikh Organisation (WSO) of Canada, who's been helping in the fight for justice, Bhullar's last trial saw one of the 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 conscience 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.

Navneet, now unable to travel due to health issues, must await yet another court decision 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."

Courtesy: Vancoverdesi.com