New York. Canada News: The United States has charged an Indian national with a conspiracy to murder Sikhs for Justice founder Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who is a US citizen and has been designated a terrorist by the Indian government.
The US attorney’s office on Wednesday said Nikhil Gupta was arrested by Czech authorities in June and is awaiting extradition. Sources, meanwhile, said India is also watching Gupta’s case carefully but it is wrong to say that Indian agencies gave him the task of killing Pannun.
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The US, which is putting pressure on the Czech Republic to extradite Nikhil Gupta, is likely to be successful but Indian authorities said the country does not have any evidence against him as he is not involved in any way.
Sources said the two countries are in constant touch to avoid any bad relationship and, if needed, all assistance will be given to Nikhil Gupta.
Vocal Critic of Indian Government
Not naming him, prosecutors described Pannun as a “vocal critic of the Indian government who leads a US-based organization that advocates for the secession of India’s Punjab state, which is home to a large population of Sikhs”. The organisation, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), is banned in India.
According to a report published by news agency Reuters, Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said: “The defendant conspired from India to assassinate, right here in New York City, a US citizen of Indian origin who has publicly advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs.”
Plot to kill a Sikh separatist
The charges come after a senior Biden administration official last week said US authorities had thwarted a plot to kill a Sikh separatist on American soil and issued a warning to India over concerns about New Delhi’s involvement. The official had said Pannun was the target of the plot.
Meanwhile, citing senior administration officials, The Washington Post on Wednesday said the US has sent its two top intelligence officials to India to press for an investigation into an alleged plot to assassinate the Sikh separatist leader and hold to account those responsible.
conspiracy to kill Pannun
CIA director William J Burns and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines are the two officials, the report stated. On the same day, India also said it has formed a high-level inquiry committee to probe allegations relating to a conspiracy to kill Pannun.
The Post reported that the issue has been raised by top leadership, including President Joe Biden and Burns, and they have demanded New Delhi to hold those accountable for it. “Gupta allegedly conspired with a number of others, at least one of whom is believed to be an official in India,” The Post reported citing anonymous sources from the Biden administration.
Drug Enforcement Administration
The plot was foiled in June by the Drug Enforcement Administration, shortly after Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar was assassinated in Canada. This had led to a diplomatic meltdown between Canada and India after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly raised the issue and alleged that agents of the Indian government were involved in the killing.
What are the Charges Against Nikhil Gupta
A press release by the Office of Public Affairs of the US Department of Justice stated that Gupta is charged with murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire. Each count carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The charges have been built on a bare-bones indictment filed in mid-June and unsealed in July, which alleged that Gupta coordinated a $15,000 advance payment to a purported hitman’s associate. The document, however, gives no indication of who the intended victim was.
US citizen in New York City
Additional details are contained in what is known as a superseding indictment, which has been unsealed and alleges murder-for-hire charges against Gupta, aka Nick, in connection with his participation in a foiled plot to assassinate a US citizen in New York City.
Court documents state that earlier this year, “an Indian government employee (CC-1), working together with others, including Gupta, in India and elsewhere, directed a plot to assassinate on US soil an attorney and political activist who is a US citizen of Indian origin residing in New York City (the victim)”.
Gupta is an associate of “CC-1”
The press release states that Gupta is an associate of “CC-1” and has described his involvement in international narcotics and weapons trafficking in his “communications with CC-1 and others”.
“CC-1” is an Indian government agency employee, who has variously described himself as a “senior field officer” with responsibilities in “security management” and “intelligence”, and who also has referenced previously serving in Central Reserve Police Force and receiving “officer training” in “battle craft” and “weapons”, states the press release.
It further stated that “CC-1” directed the assassination plot from India and, around May, “CC-1” recruited Gupta to orchestrate the assassination of the victim in the US.
Who is the terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannu?
Founder of Sikhs for Justice and Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun is originally from the village of Khankot in Amritsar, Punjab. Gurpatwant Singh Pannu has studied law from Punjab University.
Gurpatwant Singh Pannu’s father Mahinder Singh was an employee of the Punjab State Agricultural Marketing Board. Pannu is currently practicing law in America and is also the legal advisor of Sikhs for Justice. Pannu is a resident of America as well as Canada.
Apart from America, Canada, Pannu is running anti-India propaganda through his organization in Britain. In the name of the demand of Khalistan, he is trying to spread unrest in India, especially in Punjab. Due to which the demand for Khalistan has been written many times on the walls of many cities of Punjab. (With PTI inputs)