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This Press Release may be read online at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-30-06-2008-00.htm

Press Release: 30th Jun 2008, Monday         17th Harh (Samvat 540 Nanakshahi )

Press Release

Sikh Arrested and Turban Snatched by State Marshals in Connecticut Courthouse

Stamford, CT: Forty-seven year old truck driver Sachdev Singh entered the State of Connecticut Superior Court on June 18, 2008, seeking to contest a traffic violation when he was arrested for wearing a kirpan, a blade that is a Sikh article of faith, and his turban was forcibly removed from his head. The incident occurred soon after Sachdev Singh entered the courthouse as he was passing through security, handled by the Connecticut Judicial State Marshals. Sachdev Singh wore his approximately five-inch long kirpan under his clothing, as many Sikhs do, and stated to security officers on three different occasions before entering the metal detector that he had “a religious symbol under my clothes.”

Sachdev Singh, 47, New Jersey

The marshals did not inquire as to the religious symbol, expressed that it was fine to enter, only informing him that he had to deposit his cellphone and camera with one of the marshals. When Sachdev Singh passed under the metal detectors, he was promptly arrested and both his kirpan and his turban were stripped away from him forcibly.

The event in question occurred when Sachdev Singh notified a marshal prior to entering the metal detector at the courthouse of the presence of “a religious symbol” under his clothing. Assured that all would be well and that he should turn his camera and cell phone, which are not allowed, over to another marshal before going through the metal detector, he did just that, giving the cell phone and camera to one marshal and stating again that he carried a “religious symbol” under his clothes, who made no objection or inquiry. Approaching the metal detectors once more, Sachdev Singh again declared that he carried a “religious symbol” under his clothing. The marshals, at this juncture, waved Sachdev Singh through the detectors, and as he passed, the detectors beeped. Sachdev Singh, following directions, did as the marshals asked and displayed his kirpan, resulting in an marshal holding his arm immediately. Sachdev Singh politely requested that the marshal let go of his arm and stated to the marshals that he had declared the presence of “a religious symbol under my clothes” several times to three different state marshals and was assured that he only was required to leave his cellphone and camera behind. At no point did any official question what the article of faith was or ask him to display it. State marshals then handcuffed Sachdev Singh as they asked him whether he had anything in his turban, to which he responded that he did not. Despite Sachdev Singh’s statement, a few minutes later after being escorted to a table where all his possessions had been placed, a marshal came up behind Sachdev Singh and tore off his turban without asking his permission to remove it, then placing it on the table.

After approximately an hour of questioning, Sachdev Singh's handcuffs were removed, he was allowed to retie his turban, and then was placed under arrest for “carrying a dangerous weapon.” Sachdev Singh was taken to jail where he was fingerprinted and his turban was once again forcibly removed. Currently, Sachdev Singh is being charged with a possession of a dangerous weapon, which is punishable by up to $500 in fines, up to 3 years in prison, or both. Under this charge, if the edge portion of the blade exceeds 4 inches in length, it is considered “a dangerous weapon.” However, it is to be noted that the five-inch kirpan he was carrying at the time was so dull that the “edge” could be rubbed along one’s hand without causing any harm. He was released from jail once he posted bail. “It was a great shock that state marshals handling security of a court of law would treat me in this manner,” commented Sachdev Singh. “I am concerned this incident will adversely affect my citizenship status, as I am applying for naturalization, and I am upset that my rights were so unlawfully cast aside in a courthouse, of all places,” he added.

When UNITED SIKHS was called by the victim, UNITED SIKHS immediately attempted to contact Judicial Marshal’s Chief Victor Corley who handles security at the courthouse where the incident occurred, and also called State Attorney David Cohen of the Prosecutor’s Office, both of whom were unavailable.

“According to Connecticut State statute Sec. 53-206, which Sachdev Singh is charged with violating, one cannot carry ‘any knife the edged portion of the blade of which is four inches or over in length,’ ” remarked Jaspreet Singh, Staff Attorney for UNITED SIKHS. “In this case, seeing as the blade was completely dull to the point of being able to rub one’s hand over it without injury, it should not be considered a ‘dangerous weapon’. Furthermore, prior case precedent in multiple states show that the kirpan to be treated only as an article of faith and should never be classified as a dangerous weapon.”

UNITED SIKHS is working actively to have the charges levied against Sachdev Singh dismissed, and is exploring various civil remedies to ensure that a training program about Sikhs for the Connecticut State Marshals is put into place to prevent any future recurrence of mistreatment of a Sikh, including his or her turban.

You may read a previous press release on a discrimination case assisted by UNITED SIKHS at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-14-06-2008-00.htm

Issued By:

Baljit Kaur
International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy (ICHRA)
1-(646) 315-3909

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