India's top court rejects French plea for woman's release

24th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

India's top court Tuesday rejected a French request to release from prison a Frenchwoman wanted in Chile over the assassination of a key supporter of General Pinochet's military regime.

Chile is seeking the extradition of Marie-Emmanuelle Verhoeven, 56, for her alleged role in a conspiracy to kill Senator Jaime Guzman Errazuriz on April 1, 1991.

Indian police arrested her on February 16 as she entered the country from Nepal, and she has been held in Delhi's notorious Tihar Jail ever since.

The French embassy had told the Supreme Court it would ensure she remained in India if it released her into its custody pending an extradition hearing.

But on Tuesday the court dismissed the plea, questioning the embassy's ability to uphold such a guarantee.

"The Frenchwoman is accused of terror activity, murder and being a part of a subversive group that killed a senator," said Justice T.S. Thakur.

"What can the French government do if she flees despite the guarantee? We will not make any interim arrangement."

Lawyers for Verhoeven have argued that her arrest and detention were illegal and she should be released immediately. The Supreme Court will take up her case again on December 8.

She was arrested in India on the basis of an Interpol notice for her detention issued at Chile's request, but Interpol later cancelled the notice.

The Delhi High Court in September ruled in favour of Verhoeven's immediate release, saying the extradition request was illegal, but shortly afterwards she was re-arrested in prison.

A native of Nantes in western France, Verhoeven had been arrested in the German city of Hamburg in January 2014 and detained for four months.

But Germany rejected Chile's request to extradite her -- something her Indian lawyers are pointing to as they try to thwart her extradition this time around.

Verhoeven lived in Chile from 1985 to 1995 and worked to promote human rights there, before returning to France.

She says she is the victim of a "political vendetta" against her.

© 2015 AFP

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