Nikhil Gupta Pleads Not Guilty in U.S. Murder-for-Hire Conspiracy

Nikhil Gupta, an Indian man accused of plotting the murder of Sikh separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, pleaded not guilty in a federal court. Gupta was linked to an Indian government official and extradited from the Czech Republic. The case is straining India’s relations with the U.S. and Canada.

Reuters | Updated: 17-06-2024 22:41 IST | Created: 17-06-2024 22:41 IST
Nikhil Gupta Pleads Not Guilty in U.S. Murder-for-Hire Conspiracy
Nikhil Gupta

An Indian man suspected by the U.S. of involvement in an unsuccessful plot to kill a Sikh separatist on American soil pleaded not guilty on Monday to murder-for-hire conspiracy charges in a federal court in Manhattan. Nikhil Gupta also was ordered detained during the hearing.

Gupta has been accused by U.S. federal prosecutors of plotting with an Indian government official to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a U.S. resident who advocated for a sovereign Sikh state in northern India. Last June, Gupta traveled to Prague from India and was arrested by Czech authorities. A Czech court last month rejected his petition to avoid being sent to the U.S. He was extradited to the U.S. on Friday, Czech Justice Minister Pavel Blazek said.

Gupta, 52, was being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, U.S. Bureau of Prisons records showed. The discovery of alleged assassination plots against Sikh separatists in the U.S. and Canada has tested relations with India, seen by Western nations as a counter to China's rising global influence. India's government denies involvement in such plots.

Canada said in September its intelligence agencies were pursuing allegations linking India's government to the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June 2023 in the Canadian province of British Columbia. In November, U.S. authorities said an Indian government official had directed the plot in the attempted murder of Pannun, who is a U.S. and Canadian citizen. Gupta is accused of involvement in that plot.

Pannun told Reuters on Sunday that while the extradition was a welcome step, "Nikhil Gupta is just a foot soldier." He alleged that those who hired Gupta were senior members of the Indian government who act on the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India's government has dissociated itself from the plot against Pannun, saying it was against government policy. It has said it would formally investigate security concerns raised by Washington.

New Delhi has long complained about Sikh separatist groups outside India, viewing them as security threats. The groups have kept alive the movement for Khalistan, or the demand for an independent Sikh state to be carved out of India. Last month, Washington said it was satisfied so far with India's moves to ensure accountability in the alleged plots, but added that many steps still needed to be taken.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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