India on Wednesday refused entry to Alexander Carlile, a legal adviser to Khaleda Zia, on the grounds that he did not have a “valid and appropriate visa” and he wanted to create a “problem” between New Delhi and Dhaka.
Carlile, also a British MP, later addressed the media at the Le Meridien Hotel here through videoconferencing from London for about half an hour and accused India of giving in to the pressure of the Bangladesh government.
In a statement, he said he wanted to come to India to deliver a media briefing as the Bangladesh government “deliberately delayed” over his visa application.
“I am grateful to the free media in India for the opportunity to lay bare the unfair and unjust approach of the Bangladesh authorities to the case of my client Begum Khaleda Zia,” he added.
Yesterday afternoon, Indian External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told a weekly media briefing that Carlile was intimated in advance that his visa to enter the country had been revoked.
Replying to a question, the official said they had informed Carlile in advance that his visa was not valid.
Kumar said Carlile was aware of the revocation of his visa and it was borne out by the fact that he came with a return boarding card for a return flight to London within two hours. “It shows he was prepared for the return flight.”
Carlile, a member of the British House of Lords, arrived in New Delhi by an Air India flight at 11:00pm (India time) on Wednesday and returned by a British Airways flight at 1:15am yesterday, the MP's Media Adviser Lubna Asif told The Daily Star.
Kumar said Carlile's e-visa was revoked because there was “a discrepancy between the purpose of his visit the lawmaker mentioned in his visa application and what he intended to do in Delhi.”
According to the ministry spokesperson, Carlile in his visa application stated “business” as the purpose of his India visit.
Displaying a copy of the statement issued by Carlile accusing the governments of India and Bangladesh of “political interference” in a case against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, Kumar said, “What kind of business is this? What was the purpose of his visit?”
The official said Carlile on his arrival at the Delhi airport was told by the immigration authorities that he did not have a “valid and appropriate visa”.
It is perfectly normal to revoke the visa of a person if the e-visa is issued and then something is found amiss after ascertaining the intended purpose of his visit, Kumar said.
“I see there is a little bit of suspicion about his visit and his intention itself was doubtful…. While applying for a visa of any country, the purpose of your visit as mentioned in the visa application form should match what you actually do on the ground after going there.”
The official questioned, “Can you go to a country with a student visa and then take up a job there? You try doing that and you see the consequences.”
He said one cannot claim visa as a matter of right and it is the sole prerogative of the authorities of a country to issue it or not.
“Carlile had come here to try and create a problem between India and Bangladesh and some kind of misunderstanding between India and BNP,” the official said, adding “You do not come in and say what all has been said in the statement.”
In this context, Kumar said whenever a dignitary from India goes to Bangladesh whether it is at the level of the prime minister or the external affairs minister, he or she engages with opposition leaders as part of normal diplomatic and democratic process.
In the statement, Carlile yesterday claimed he was refused entry to India while in midair.
“The Indian government knew perfectly well why I was coming -- to give this briefing and to meet the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. This is no way to treat a 70-year-old senior lawyer and parliamentarian.”
“I am outraged by political interference in Begum Khaleda Zia's case on political grounds by the two governments and I expect a full explanation from the Indian government,” the British lawmaker said, adding there would be a further briefing in London in a few days' time.
He said his interest in the case was only as one of the team of counsels instructed on Khaleda's behalf. “My particular role is to examine the evidence and judgments against her and to advise and comment as to whether they fall within international and common rule of law norms, which are applicable in Bangladesh.”
Carlile expressed alarm over the “control of the judiciary” by the Bangladesh government. “Last week's media attack on me by the attorney general for my mere involvement as counsel in this case demonstrates an example of the venal sin of political interference in a court case. Also, hearings are manipulated to be placed before judges who were Awami League activists before being elevated to the Bench.”
About the case against Khaleda, he said, “In summary, in the various proceedings against my client there is no admissible evidence against her of dishonesty or other criminal activity. Judgment and imprisonment are founded upon assertions that amount to guilt by association -- because she knows someone or is close to them, she is held liable for their alleged dishonesty. This is an outrage against the normal burden and standard of proof,” the British MP said.
The lawyer charged that the Bangladesh government behaved “dishonestly, with a clear ulterior motive -- to keep his client, her son Tarique Rahman, and the BNP out of effective Bangladesh politics and thereby out of the forthcoming election”. He termed it an affront to democracy.
Carlile said an example of the “manipulation” of Khaleda's case relates to bail applications and hearings. “Bogus applications under a practice called shown arrested are made so that, just when a person is about to be bailed, a new custody warrant is issued to defeat the grant of bail. This device has been used repeatedly to defeat my client's legitimate bail.”
BNP SURPRISED, SHOCKED
Expressing surprise and shock over the denial of entry to Carlile by India, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir yesterday said such an incident was not consistent with the practice of freethinking in the world's largest democracy.
“He [Carlile] wanted to go to India as the Bangladesh government didn't grant him visa. We are shocked as India denied him entry,” he said in a statement issued in Dhaka, adding that the lawyer wanted to hold a press conference in New Delhi to protest jailing of Khaleda.