Killer Indian driver accuses Australia of hatred


(FILES) In this photograph taken on December 12, 2013, Indian national Puneet Puneet is brought to the district court in Rajpura, India's Punjab state. A lawyer for an Indian driver who fled Australia after a fatal car accident said December 18, 2013 his client would not get a fair trial if extradited because of hatred towards Indian students. Photo - AFP

A lawyer for an Indian driver who fled Australia after a fatal car accident said Wednesday his client would not get a fair trial if extradited because of hatred towards Indian students.

Anil Mittal, lawyer for Puneet Puneet, told a New Delhi court he opposed his client's extradition to Melbourne to face trial because of the "hatred towards Indian students in Australia".

Mittal cited hate messsages on Australian social media sites against Puneet as evidence that his life would be threatened if he returned and that he would not receive a fair trial.

Several attacks on Indian students in Australia in 2011 outraged India and led to accusations of racism against migrants, sparking a diplomatic row between the two countries.

Mittal also accused Australian police of pressuring Puneet into confessing to the crime but did not give details.

"The guilty plea was taken out of him under pressure," the lawyer told the magistrate's court. "We are opposing his extradition. The trial for the charges that he is facing can be held in India."

Puneet, 24, who is being held in Delhi's Tihar jail, was in court along with members of his family.

Puneet, who only had a provisional driver's licence at the time of the crash, hit two students aged 19 and 20 as they walked across a road in Melbourne in 2008. One of them died at the scene.

Australian police estimated Puneet was driving at 148 kilometres (92 miles) an hour -- more than double the legal limit in the area. He also tested positive for alcohol.

Puneet was charged with culpable driving and negligently causing serious injury, then bailed on strict conditions including the surrender of his passport. But he later fled using a fellow Indian's passport.

After four years on the run from police in India, he was arrested in late November in the northern state of Punjab.

Prosecutors said the Indian government had already agreed to extradition, and the court just needed to submit a report to the government for the process to go ahead.

The court fixed January 9 as the date for the next hearing.

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