Dhaka: Acceding to India`s long-standing demand, Bangladesh has decided to hand over imprisoned ULFA leader Anup Chetia to the neighbouring country.
"... The procedure (to repatriate Chetia) is underway," Bangladesh’s Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir said.
Alamgir said late Wednesday night that the government would hand over Chetia, the ULFA general secretary, to India exhausting the legal procedures.
A senior Home Ministry official said on Thursday that Chetia`s repatriation process began "several months ago and it is yet to be completed."
The two countries do not have any extradition treaty while an existing agreement for exchanging imprisoned nationals in each other`s jails demanded consent of the jailed persons for repatriation to serve the rest of their terms in their own country, he said.
“Chetia`s repatriation required exhaustion of some legal procedures despite the end of his jail term" for illegal intrusion, the official told a news agency, preferring anonymity.
Chetia was arrested in Bangladesh in 1997 and is under detention on completion of his seven-year jail term for cross-border intrusion, carrying fake passports and illegally keeping foreign currencies.
When his comments were sought on the Bangladesh decision on Chetia, an Indian High Commission spokesman here said India had consistently requested Dhaka for his repatriation "in the absence of an extradition treaty”.
"We expect him to be repatriated soon" as there were precedence of exchange of wanted persons between Bangladesh and India, the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the Daily Star and several other newspapers, referring to unidentified "government sources", said a process was underway to sign an extradition treaty under which Chetia could be repatriated while Bangladesh would also seek return of several of its wanted nationals either hiding or imprisoned in jails in India.
Former Bangladesh home minister Sahara Khatun had said last year that she did not think "there is any obstacle in handing him (Chetia) over to India, but definitely there are procedures in extraditing someone who is in jail”.
"Mr Chetia has expired his term in jail in Bangladesh ... still he is in jail" in line with a High Court directive in August, 2003 to keep him in safe custody until the government made a decision on his prayer seeking political asylum in Bangladesh, Khatun had said.
A Bangladeshi court earlier issued an arrest warrant against ULFA`s armed wing chief Paresh Barua to face trial in a case related to the 2004 weapon haul when the outfit tried to smuggle in 10 truckloads of weapons to their hideouts through Bangladesh territory.
Several other ULFA stalwarts, including their chief Arbind Rajkhowa, were reportedly arrested in Bangladesh and subsequently handed over to India in recent years but Dhaka officially confirmed none of these incidents.
The development in Chetia`s case came as a four-day biennial conference was on between the Directors General of paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Border Security Force (BSF), with cross-border crimes and cooperation dominating the agenda.