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"Will pursue his defence vigorously, ensure he receives full due process": US Attorney of Pannun 'murder plot' accused Nikhil Gupta

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By Reena Bhardwaj

New York | June 17, 2024 10:11:24 PM IST
Indian national Nikhil Gupta, suspected by the US of involvement in an unsuccessful plot to kill the India-designated pro-Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on American soil, will be produced at the Federal courthouse in New York on Monday (local time).

Gupta has been extradited to the United States from the Czech Republic late last week.

In an exclusive interview to ANI, Gupta's US-based lawyer, attorney Jeffrey Chabrowe said that his focus would be to pursue Gupta's defence vigorously regardless of "outside pressures."

"We will pursue his (Gupta's) defence vigorously and ensure he receives full due process, regardless of outside pressures," Chabrowe firmly asserted.

Nikhil Gupta has been accused by US federal prosecutors of plotting with an Indian government official to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

The discovery of alleged assassination plots against Pannun in the US has brought the India-US relationship under the spotlight.

New Delhi has firmly dissociated itself from the plot against Pannun, saying it is against Indian government's policy. It has said it would formally investigate security concerns raised by Washington.

"This is a complex matter for both our countries. It is extremely important that we refrain from rushing to conclusions so early in the process,' Chabrowe added.

The US earlier said that 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.

Gupta's attorney pointed the diplomatic relationship between India and the US could be tested after what comes out of the court findings.

"Background and details (of the case) will develop that may cast government allegations into an entirely new light," the New York-based attorney told ANI.

The US Justice Department has alleged that Gupta (52) is an associate of the Indian government and that together they and others helped plot the assassination of Pannun in New York City.

In November last year, US Justice Department officials announced charges against Gupta after he was arrested in June 2023 in the Czech Republic. They said Gupta would face extradition to New York.

Pannun is an India-designated terrorist who holds American and Canadian citizenship.Earlier in November, the US Justice Department unsealed an indictment against an Indian national for his alleged involvement in a foiled plot to assassinate a US-based leader of the Sikh Separatist Movement and a citizen in New York.

The Justice Department claimed that an Indian government employee (named CC-1), who was not identified in the indictment filed in a federal court in Manhattan, recruited an Indian national named Nikhil Gupta to hire a hitman to carry out the assassination, which was foiled by US authorities, according to prosecutors.

In its indictment, the Justice Department has claimed that earlier last year, an Indian government employee working together with others, including Gupta, directed a plot to assassinate a political activist who is a US citizen of Indian origin residing in New York City. It was alleged 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.

The indictment claims that CC -1 directed the assassination plot from India.At CC-1's direction, Gupta allegedly contacted an individual whom he believed to be a criminal associate, but who was, in fact, a confidential source working with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the US.

The source, it was alleged, introduced Gupta to a purported hitman, who was a DEA undercover officer. The purported hitman was offered USD 100,000 to murder the separatist leader, the Justice Department claimed.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty, the Justice Department stated in a release. (ANI)

 
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