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SK Sinha seeks political asylum in Canada

  • Published at 04:07 pm July 26th, 2019
SK Sinha
FILE PHOTO: Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha is the first Chief Justice in the history of Bangladesh to quit Courtesy

Earlier Sinha made an asylum claim in the US which is still under process

Bangladesh’s former chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha has sought asylum in Canada, claiming that he was threatened for refusing to support political interference, which would give parliament greater power to axe dissenting judges.

The 68-years-old former chief justice has been in exile — most recently in the United States — since November 2017, three months after he rejected what he alleges was a request from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to rule in favour of her government’s constitutional amendment.

According to the Canadian news outlet The Star, Sinha crossed into Canada at Fort Erie and filed a refugee claim on July 4.

“I was being targeted because I was an activist judge. I delivered judgments that provoked bureaucrats, the establishment, politicians and even terrorists,” Sinha told The Star in an interview this week. “I am the enemy of the country, the persona non grata.”

In July, Bangladeshi media reported that the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had charged the ex-chief justice and 10 others, including a former bank executive, with graft, money laundering and abuse of power. 

The commission did not respond to the Star’s inquiry about the charges, which Sinha firmly denied.

Bangladesh’s High Commissioner to Canada Mizanur Rahman denies Sinha’s accusations.

“All I can tell you is since he left Bangladesh, he has been making these inaccurate statements about the government,” Mizanur Rahman told the Star in a phone interview from Ottawa. 

“He is absolutely under no threat to return to the country. He is making these statements just to strengthen his refugee claim.”

Asylum claim in US

Sinha made an asylum claim in the US and while waiting for a decision, he published an autobiography titled "A Broken Dream: Rule of Law, Human Rights and Democracy" detailing allegations of government agencies intimidating judges to make decisions in favour of the government.

The American asylum claim is still in process and his wife has also made a claim in Canada.

The former chief justice said he had not planned to seek protection in Canada until last September, when he began to fear for his life after Bangladeshi media published photos of his brother’s New Jersey home. 

The renewed interest in him came after Prime Minister Hasina was questioned about accusations made in the former chief justice’s book during her visit to the UN General Assembly in New York.

Sinha said he made up his mind to come to Toronto recently when his wife fell very ill and wanted to be with their daughter in Canada.

In exile

Following the July 2017 meeting with the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Sinha said he was harassed by Bangladeshi intelligence agents, who allegedly forced him to take sick leave from his judicial post and put him under house arrest. 

He claimed he was also barred from having visitors while both he and his wife were under constant surveillance.

Sinha said he agreed to leave the country on holiday with the help of intelligence officials, who fast-tracked his visa application to Australia, where one of his two daughters lived.

While on a stop in Singapore, on his way back to Bangladesh, he said a Bangladeshi intelligence agent threatened him, telling him not to return home and pressuring him to resign his post.

Sinha then flew to Canada to visit his other daughter who was studying in Manitoba, before heading to the United States in January 2018 and settling with his brother in New Jersey.

Surendra Kumar Sinha was first appointed judge of the High Court Division in 1999 and of the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division a decade later. He became Chief Justice of Bangladesh in January 2015.