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Indian suspect in Sikh separatist murder plot extradited to US

Nikhil Gupta, who is accused by prosecutors of hiring a hitman to kill a New York-based Khalistan leader, has been arrested in Prague

An Indian national accused of being part of an assassination plot in New York has been extradited to the US from the Czech Republic, Reuters has reported, citing the Federal Bureau of Prisons website and a source familiar with the matter.

According to US prosecutors, Nikhil Gupta, who claims to be a businessman from New Delhi, tried to hire a hitman to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a prominent leader of the Khalistan movement who is designated as a “terrorist” by New Delhi. The movement advocates the creation of a Sikh nation-state in northern India. 

According to a US federal court indictment made public last year, Gupta conspired with an official in New Delhi to plan the assassination, which was foiled by FBI agents. In April, the Washington Post identified the previously unnamed official as Vikram Yadav. He is reportedly attached to the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) – India’s foreign intelligence service.

New Delhi has called the accusations a “matter of concern” but stated that targeted killing are “contrary to government policy.” It has set up a high-level commission to investigate the matter. 

Last month, Eric Garcetti, Washington’s envoy in India, said that US President Joe Biden and his administration were “satisfied” with the “accountability” shown by Indian officials in the case.

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US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti during the inauguration of a manufacturing facility of First Solar in Sriperumbudur,  India on January 11, 2024.
US demands ‘accountability’ from India in alleged New York murder plot

Gupta is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, a federal administrative detention facility, according to the US Bureau of Prisons website. Reuters reported that Gupta had traveled to Prague from India last June and was arrested by Czech authorities. Last month, a Czech court rejected his petition to avoid being sent to the US, paving the way for his extradition.

Earlier this year, Gupta’s family, which claims he is innocent, filed a petition with the Indian Supreme Court asking New Delhi to secure his release. However, the top court struck down the plea, and suggested Gupta’s family would have to seek redress in the Czech Republic.

The case has also been linked to the assassination of another Sikh separatist leader – Hardeep Singh Nijjar – in a suburb outside Vancouver, Canada in June last year. Like Pannun, he had also been designated a terrorist by the Indian government.


READ MORE: India accuses Canada of ‘glorifying violence’

However, when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly accused New Delhi of being involved in the killing without providing evidence, New Delhi firmly rejected the claims. Trudeau’s move sparked a deep diplomatic row with India, which briefly suspended visa services to Canadians and forced Ottawa to reduce its mission’s strength in India. In May, Canadian police arrested three Indians over their alleged involvement in the murder. 

New Delhi has repeatedly accused Ottawa of harboring extremism on its soil. In April, New Delhi summoned the Canadian deputy high commissioner to register a diplomatic protest after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended a public event that featured activists chanting pro-Khalistan slogans.

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June 17, 2024 at 03:11PM
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