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Pannun murder-for-hire plot: Accosted by US agents and forced to eat beef, claims accused Nikhil Gupta

According to the petition, during the initial 10-11 days of imprisonment, Nikhil Gupta was exclusively presented with pork and beef, which posed a dilemma for him as a devout Hindu and vegetarian.

Pannun murder-for-hire plot: Accosted by US agents and forced to eat beef, alleged accused Nikhil Gupta snt
First Published Dec 15, 2023, 9:36 PM IST

Nikhil Gupta, an Indian national accused by the United States of involvement in a plot to assassinate Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, has revealed disturbing details about his encounter with American agents at Prague airport. Gupta alleges that he was confronted by these agents, subjected to an illegal interrogation lasting over three hours inside a moving black van, and subsequently handed over to Czech authorities.

Presently, Gupta finds himself held in solitary confinement within a Czech prison, awaiting extradition to the United States to face charges related to a murder-for-hire plot. The unfolding events surrounding his arrest and detention have raised questions about the legality of the procedures followed in this case.

Startling revelations emerged during a plea filed in the Supreme Court by a family member of Nikhil Gupta, referred to as Mr X. The plea, invoking Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, alleged multiple violations of Gupta's fundamental rights, including threats to him and his family. Urging the Indian government to intervene in Gupta's extradition to the US, the plea shed light on the sensitive nature of the situation.

Also read: SC Habeas Corpus petition pleads release of Nikhil Gupta in alleged Gurpatwant Singh Pannun assassination case

Acknowledging the gravity of the matter, the Supreme Court recognized it as an "extremely sensitive matter." However, the court directed the petitioner to seek redressal from the Czech justice system, emphasizing that the Indian top court lacks jurisdiction over arrests made in another country. Justice Sanjiv Khanna, while acknowledging the plea, clarified that since Nikhil Gupta had not provided an affidavit, any potential violation of the law should be addressed within the jurisdiction where the detention occurred. Despite this, the court decided to schedule a hearing for next month, indicating a willingness to delve deeper into the unfolding circumstances.

Illegal detention and interrogation

According to Mr X's petition, Nikhil Gupta experienced an unlawful detention and interrogation by US agents, emphasizing the absence of a formal arrest warrant and the confiscation of Gupta's phone. The petition highlighted the irregularity of the arrest, occurring after Gupta had completed entry formalities and exited Vaclav Havel Airport, deviating from the standard practice at immigration counters. This, the petition argued, rendered the subsequent three-hour questioning in the back of an SUV illegal and in violation of both international and municipal law.

The petition further alleged that American agents issued threats to Mr X before transferring Gupta to local authorities. Additionally, it claimed that Gupta's blood and biometrics were collected without informing him of the charges until the following morning.

Mr X asserted that Czech authorities appointed a defense attorney for Gupta, who advised him to consent to being transported to New York. The petition contended that this advice was not in Gupta's best interest, asserting that it was influenced by US agencies seeking an expedited extradition process.

The petition further highlighted that the Czech authorities failed to inform the Indian Embassy about Nikhil Gupta's arrest, detention, or even his whereabouts. According to the plea, Gupta was deprived of consular access, the ability to contact his family in India, and the freedom to seek legal representation.

It was only on July 19, almost 20 days after what the petition deemed as his "illegal" detention, that Gupta was finally permitted to meet with an Indian official. This delay in access to consular assistance and legal representation adds another layer to the concerns raised by Gupta's family regarding the handling of his case.

Also read: 'We take this very seriously...' US on alleged Indian murder-for-hire plot in New York City against Pannun

'Forced to eat beef'

According to the petition, during the initial 10-11 days of imprisonment, Nikhil Gupta was exclusively presented with pork and beef, which posed a dilemma for him as a devout Hindu and vegetarian.

Despite authorities being made aware of this dietary restriction, the petition alleges that they persisted in denying Gupta vegetarian food, compelling him to consume meals that contradicted his religious beliefs. This, the petition asserted, amounted to a violation of his most basic human rights.

Last month, US law enforcement authorities revealed the filing of "murder-for-hire" charges against Nikhil Gupta, alleging a thwarted plot to assassinate Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in New York City.

While Pannun was not explicitly named in the indictment, the chargesheet disclosed that Nikhil Gupta received directives from an Indian government official identified only as CC-1.

In response to the charges brought against Gupta by the US, External Affairs Minister Arindam Bagchi emphasized India's serious consideration of such inputs, stating that they significantly impact national security interests. Relevant departments are actively examining the issue, Bagchi added.

To further investigate the case, the Indian government has established a high-level inquiry committee. If convicted, Gupta could face a 20-year jail term. 

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