A Frenchwoman wanted in Chile over the assassination of a key supporter of General Pinochet’s military regime will on Friday ask India’s top court to release her after she was arrested and jailed in Delhi.
Chile is seeking the extradition of Marie-Emmanuelle Verhoeven, 56, for her alleged participation in a conspiracy to kill Senator Jaime Guzman Errazuriz on April 1 1991.
Verhoeven was arrested on February 16 in Uttar Pradesh state on the Indian border where she was entering the country from Nepal, and has since been in custody in the capital’s Tihar Jail.
Her lawyers will on Friday seek her release in the Supreme Court, arguing that her arrest and detention were illegal.
“Every aspect of this case is punctuated by several illegalities. Her detention is completely illegal”, her lawyer Ramni Taneja told AFP.
“I visited her yesterday. Of course she’s very worried, but she has great faith in the Indian legal system and I’m very hopeful we can secure her release.”
Verhoeven was arrested in India on the basis of an Interpol notice for her detention issued at Chile’s request, with Indian authorities describing her as a “fugitive criminal”.
Interpol later cancelled the notice after the Frenchwoman petitioned.
The question of whether there exists a legally valid extradition treaty between India and Chile is a matter of heated dispute.
One extradition treaty cited by Indian authorities in the case dates back to 1897, when India was still under British rule.
The Delhi High Court in September ruled for Verhoeven’s immediate release, saying the extradition request was illegal, but shortly after she was re-arrested in prison.
The French embassy in Delhi issued a note requesting Indian authorities to execute the High Court’s decision, calling for “Ms Verhoeven’s right to liberty and freedom of movement (to) be reinstated without delay”.
A native of Nantes in western France, Verhoeven was previously arrested in Hamburg, Germany 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.
Verhoeven lived in Chile from 1985 to 1995 where she worked to promote human rights, including for a United Nations commission in Latin America, and as a prison administration officer, before returning to France.
She says she is the victim of a “political vendetta” against her.
Guzman was a law professor and policymaker in General Pinochet’s military dictatorship that ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990.
He was shot dead as he left the Catholic University where he worked by members of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR), a former armed group of the Communist Party.