Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Derby cousin’s tears of joy as professor is off Death Row after 19 years

By Derby Telegraph | Posted: April 16, 2014
By Joey Severn

THE cousin of a man who has been on Death Row for more than 19 years has spoken of her delight that his sentence has been commuted. Kamalpreet Kaur, of Littleover, has not seen her cousin, Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, since he was sentenced to death in India. The family, along with members of the Sikh community in Derby and across the world, joined together to lobby for his release. And that dream has taken a step closer to becoming a reality after he was finally released from Death Row. Mrs Kaur said: “I first received a call from India and later I spoke to his wife. “I was very happy when I heard. I was crying because it was so emotional. “We are hoping that he will be free soon and that we will be able to see him again. “I last saw him in 1991.

He has been imprisoned and later on Death Row for more than 19 and a half years; his mental and physical health has been seriously affected.” Mrs Kaur, who travelled from the Punjab to live in Derby in 2001, believes that her cousin has been wrongly imprisoned for a crime that he did not commit. Derby campaigner Bhajan Singh Dheansay said that Professor Bhullar’s father, uncle and best friend were murdered in 1991. He said: “Those people were murdered by the state in the Punjab because the professor was a lecturer and 42 of his students went on a demonstration and never came back. “The professor started asking questions about the system and, because of this, his father, brother and best friend were murdered.” Professor Bhullar was then accused of detonating a car bomb in Delhi in 1993 in an attack on a politician. The professor fled to Germany in an attempt to gain political asylum but was deported back to India.

At his trial he was found guilty and sentenced to death. He has spent more than 19 years not knowing if he would see the next day and, despite various appeals, his suffering has meant he was placed in a psychiatric ward for prisoners. But now Professor Bhullar’s sentence has been commuted to life, giving the family hope that he could be soon released. Mrs Kaur said: “It has been extremely hard for all the family, particularly for his wife and his mother. This is the first good news that we have had in all those long years. “I would like to thank every one who has helped over the years, especially the Sikh community in Derby and MPs, including Chris Williamson. “We dearly hope and pray for Professor Devinder-Pal Singh to be home again with his family.” Sikh community leader Jaz Rai said: “The love and support that we have seen from the Sikh community and the wider Derby community has been fantastic. “It is good news that he is now off Death Row. “The next step is to have him released but he has already been in prison for a life sentence.

“I would also like to thank the Derby Telegraph who have helped highlight the case of the sorts of injustices that are going on in what is supposed to be the biggest democracy in the world.” Labour Derby North MP Mr Williamson, who is the secretary of the cross-party group of MPs focused on the global abolition of the death penalty, backed the campaign. He said: “It is fantastic news but now the campaign to get him fully released begins. “I believe his conviction is unsafe and I will be continuing to support the campaign and the family to see him freed.”

Source: [accessed 24 April 2014]

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