Indian mobster extradited to face trial

One of India's most wanted men is being interrogated by security officials in Mumbai after his extradition from Portugal.

    Salem has more than 50 criminal cases against him

    Abu

    Salem is alleged to have been the ringleader behind a series of deadly bomb attacks in Mumbai in 1993, as well as several other high profile murders and gangland extortion cases.

    Salem and his second wife Monica Bedi, a failed Bollywood actress, arrived 

    from Lisbon on a chartered flight on Friday morning escorted

    by a team of 20 Indian law-enforcement officials.

    Following initial questioning, Salem was taken

    under heavy security to a Mumbai anti-terrorist court where a judge

    ordered him held in police custody until 23 November, when he will appear

    before the court again.

    His extradition follows three years of legal and diplomatic wrangling. He

    has 54 criminal cases pending against him, 25 of them in India's commercial

    capital alone.

    Bedi faces trial in connection with two cases of passport forgery. She had

    allegedly travelled on forged documents to stay with Salem in Lisbon in the

    last few years.

    Bombings suspect

    "Abu Salem was afraid of the Hindu mafia because he was aware that the Hindu mafia wanted to kill him"

    Luiz Bello Morais,
    Abu Salem's lawyer in Portugal

    Salem, arrested in Lisbon, Portugal, in September 2002, is a prime suspect

    in the 1993 bombings that struck Mumbai's stock exchange along with

    trains, hotels and petrol stations, killing 257 people and wounding more

    than 1100.
     
    Police also suspect Salem in several high-profile killings, including attacks

    on Hindi film personalities, extortion and the 1997 murder of Bollywood

    music industry czar Gulshan Kumar.

    Authorities also hope Salem will provide information about another alleged

    Indian mobster, Dawood Ibrahim.

    Ibrahim now reportedly lives in Pakistan,

    though officials there deny this.

    To get Portugal to extradite Salem, India had to promise to forgo the death

    penalty and impose a prison term of 25 years or less if he's convicted,

    according to CS Sharma, the lawyer representing Indian law-enforcement

    agencies at Friday's hearing.
     
    "We want him in police custody for 30 days to facilitate interrogation for his

    role in supplying arms, ammunition and explosives to the conspirators and e

    xecutioners of the blasts," Sharma told judge PD Kode of the anti-terrorist

    court.

    Dozens of policemen, many armed with automatic weapons, surrounded the

    court building in the heart of Mumbai.

    Salem's network

    "Abu Salem will face charges of committing a terrorist act against the

    country, criminal conspiracy and supply of arms and ammunition," special

    public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said on Friday in Bombay.
     
    "Now that he is in India and in custody, police can trace his network of

    associates all over the country," Nikam said.
     
    A lawyer who represented Salem, a Muslim, in Portugal said the suspected

    bomber was worried that Hindu gangsters would kill him if he came back to

    India.

    "The problem about Abu Salem was not about Indian authorities because the Indian government has given guarantees," Luiz Bello Morais told Times Now/Reuters Television from Lisbon.

    "He was afraid of the Hindu mafia because he was aware that the Hindu mafia wanted to kill him."

    There have been shootouts in past years between gangsters led by Muslim and Hindu criminal bosses.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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