• Wednesday, July 24, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Indian man, a suspect in plot to kill Pannun, extradited to US

Pannun, wanted in India on terror charges and holding dual citizenship of the US and Canada, has been designated as a terrorist by India’s home ministry under anti-terror law.

A member of United Hindu Front organisation holds a banner depicting Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. (Photo: Getty Images)

By: Vivek Mishra

An Indian man suspected of involvement in an unsuccessful plot to kill a Sikh separatist on American soil has been extradited to the United States from the Czech Republic, according to the US Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

Nikhil Gupta has been accused by US federal prosecutors of plotting with an Indian government official to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a US resident advocating for a sovereign Sikh state in northern India.

Pannun, wanted in India on terror charges and holding dual citizenship of the US and Canada, has been designated as a terrorist by India’s home ministry under anti-terror law.

Gupta travelled to Prague from India last June and was arrested by Czech authorities. Last month, a Czech court rejected his petition to avoid extradition to the US, allowing the Czech Justice Minister to approve his extradition.

An inmate search on the Bureau of Prisons website showed that Gupta, 52, is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Centre, Brooklyn, a federal administrative detention facility. A source familiar with the matter confirmed Gupta’s extradition and detention in Brooklyn.

A US Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment. Gupta’s US-based lawyer, Jeffrey Chabrowe, had no immediate comment. Czech authorities also did not comment immediately.

The discovery of assassination plots against Sikh separatists in the US and Canada has strained relations with India, seen by Western nations as a counter to China’s rising influence. India’s government denies involvement in the plots.

In September, Canada stated that its intelligence agencies were investigating allegations linking India’s government to the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June 2023 in Canada.

In November, US authorities said an Indian government official had directed the plot to murder Pannun, who is a US and Canadian citizen. Gupta is accused of involvement in this plot.

Pannun told Reuters that while the extradition was a welcome step, “Nikhil Gupta is just a foot soldier.” He alleged that senior members of the Indian government, acting on the direction of Narendra Modi, hired Gupta.

India’s government has denied involvement in the plot against Pannun, stating it is against government policy. It has agreed to formally investigate security concerns raised by Washington.

New Delhi has long complained about Sikh separatist groups outside India, viewing them as security threats. These groups support the movement for Khalistan, an independent Sikh state to be carved out of India.

Last month, Washington expressed satisfaction with India’s efforts to ensure accountability in the alleged plots but noted that many steps still needed to be taken.

(Reuters)

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