Gunrunner would agree to trial on neutral ground

The 50-year-old Dane accused by the Indian government of weapons smuggling in 1995 wants a trial in order to clear his name and restore Denmark’s damaged relationship with India

Niels Holck has offered to be tried on neutral ground to face charges of weapons smuggling in India. His decision comes after he successfully challenged the decision by the government in April 2010 to extradite him to India to face the charges, which stem from a 1995 weapons drop. In July 2011, the Eastern High Court upheld the November 2010 decision of Hillerød City Court that the 50-year-old Holck could not be extradited as there was a risk he may be tortured in an Indian prison.

Despite the setback, India remained determined to have Holck – known in India as his alias Kim Davy – tried for his role in the so-called 'Perulia arms drop' and have slowly frozen diplomatic relations with Denmark and even threatened to deny visas for Danish travellers.

India’s persistence has at least partially paid off, and now Holck is hoping to find a way to face trial on neutral ground in order to end the saga.

“The case will not die and it is starting to affect Denmark and Danes, which is why my guilt should by tried in court,” Holck told Politiken newspaper. “If the court case proceeds properly, the case will be fully exposed and my role understood in context. If it leads to a jail sentence, so be it.  Over the years, I have always said that I wanted a court case.”

Holck believes he can prove that he and his six accomplices – all of whom were caught while he managed to escape – acted in self-defence according to the UN convention of human rights, and that they acted with the support of both the Indian and British governments.

According to Holck, the weapons were intended to arm guards that were protecting a development project that was being attacked by the communist government of the Indian state West Bengal.

The story remains a hot topic in India. Yesterday it was revealed in the Times of India that the Indian government had urged the Indian Embassy in Copenhagen to step up pressure on the Danish government.

After both the city and high court turned down the extradition request, Denmark's public prosecutions department, Rigsadvokaten, decided not to take the case to the Supreme Court. As a result, the Indian government believes the Danish government has not done everything in its powers to have Holck extradited.

While both courts turned down assurances from India that Holck would be offered special treatment in India, yesterday’s report from the Times of India suggested that the Indian government had asked their embassy in Copenhagen to examine whether Holck could be tried in their premises.

According to Ravinder Kaur, a lecturer at the University of Copenhagen and an expert on India, a similar request was turned down by the Danish government last November.

With India unlikely to back down, and Denmark unlikely to allow Holck’s extradition, negotiations between the two countries seem to have hit a dead end. Despite this, Denmark's foreign minister, Villy Søvndal (Socialistisk Folkeparti), stated yesterday that the government was willing to find a compromise.

“The government will do what it can to re-establish a good relationship with India,” Søvndal told Politiken. “A normalisation of our relationship is of the highest priority."

Indian residents of Denmark that spoke to The Copenhagen Post last summer stated that the freezing of diplomatic relations with Denmark was a frustrated response resulting from a lack of legal recourse available to apprehend and convict a man implicated in domestic terrorism – a highly emotional issue in India, especially after the Mumbai attacks of 2008.