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International murder suspect released from Fresno Co. Jail

Monday, February 21, 2011

The man at the center of an international murder mystery has been freed from the Fresno County jail.

Selma Police are pursuing domestic violence charges, but Action News has learned the suspect faces much more serious charges in India.

Avtar Singh says he's no killer -- just a scapegoat who's been under extreme stress since he fled his native country.

Local police discovered Singh was wanted on an Interpol hold, but when they contacted the police agency and the U.S. State Department, they were told it wasn't necessary to hold Singh.

So, the suspect bailed out of jail in just a few hours, despite serious charges in his homeland.

Intrigue, unrest, and death are common themes in the story of Kashmir -- the disputed land between India and Pakistan.

Human rights activist Jalil Andrabi got caught up in all three.

His disappearance and death in 1996 are still a mystery, but an Indian investigative team pointed to Avtar Singh as the mastermind.

Singh is now a Selma resident with his own trucking business -- hiding in plain sight.

"Are you the same Avtar Singh who's wanted in Kashmir for the murder of Jalil Andrabi?" an Action News reporter asked him.

"It's alleged," Singh replied.

When Selma police arrested him for domestic violence early Sunday morning, his cover was blown.

Fingerprints revealed his identity and an Interpol hold for Andrabi's murder.

"I've never run across somebody who's wanted in another country through Interpol," said Selma's interim police chief, Myron Dyck.

Singh caught the attention of Dyck and of commanders at the Fresno County jail. But in order for them to hold Singh, Interpol in India would have to take steps to have him extradited.

That hasn't happened, but Interpol officers say they're watching Singh.

Now, Selma police are doing the same.

"This is somebody who obviously raises a red flag and who we will monitor closer than we would somebody else in the community," Dyck said.

Singh claims he's just a patsy.

The former Indian army captain says his batallion was nowhere near the place where Andrabi was kidnapped. But because of the allegations, he's afraid he's a wanted man -- not by the Indian government, but by al Qaeda.

"If I'm exposed on this, the Islamic militants, they're already looking for me," he said.

As for the domestic violence case, Singh said he threw a toy at his wife. She told me everything's resolved and she's not planning to cooperate with prosecutors.

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fresno county, fresno, murder, crimetracker, local, corin hoggard
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