Centre yet to push for Zakir Naik’s extradition

Zakir Naik. File picture  

More than six months after it first filed an FIR against banned Islamist preacher Zakir Naik who is wanted on terror charges, and a month after it declared it would ask Interpol to have a red notice issued against him, the government has not yet contacted the Saudi authorities with a request to detain him in Saudi Arabia, where he is believed to be at present. Asked about Mr. Naik’s presence in Saudi Arabia, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) Dr. Saud Al-Sati admitted in an interview to The Hindu that the wanted preacher visits Saudi Arabia from “time to time.”

But significantly Ambassador Al-Sati said that “he was not aware” of any request from the Indian government on detaining Mr. Naik, or of withholding a citizenship or visa grants. Asked if as KSA Ambassador he would have received intimations of all such requests, Mr. Al-Sati repeated, “Well, I have not, yet.” Last week, Mr. Naik appeared on Arabic channel Al Majd TV from their studios in Riyadh to deny reports that he had accepted citizenships of any country, and boasted that he had been offered residence by at least 10 countries.

“I have not made up my mind about whether I should take up another citizenship because of the difficulties I am facing on the basis of baseless charges [in India],” Mr. Naik told the Riyadh-based religious channel Al Majd, owned by a Saudi businessman. “By God’s grace, I have been offered citizenship by at least 10 Islamic nations. Maybe in the future I will accept if appropriate, as even according to [Islamic texts], if people are persecuting me for my thoughts I have to protect myself,” he added.

The Hindu contacted several government agencies over the case, which had made national headlines after Mr. Naik was accused by the Bangladesh government of inspiring terrorists in the Artisan café attack in Dhaka where 22 people were gunned down in July 2016, and decided to ban his Peace TV channel.

The Indian government had followed suit, cracking down on Mr. Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation here, handing over the matter to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate.

Despite the cases in India, however, each of the agencies, appeared to pass the buck to the other on pushing for his extradition.

“We have written to MEA. It’s for them to follow it up with the Saudi authorities,” said a top Home Ministry official.

“We asked them to ask all missions to find out if he is there.”

The NIA said it had initiated the process of issuing a red notice against Mr. Naik, but it was now the CBI’s job to pursue it.

“We forwarded the NIA request a couple of weeks ago, but it has not been issued [by Interpol] yet,” said a CBI spokesperson.

Meanwhile, MEA sources denied receiving “any requests from the MHA” on Mr. Naik, indicating that any action, including alerting the necessary missions abroad, was yet to be taken.

The fact that the government has not contacted Saudi authorities is particularly significant, given that India and Saudi Arabia maintain a very strong partnership on terrorism, signed an extradition treaty in 2010, and upgraded the agreement on fighting terrorism financing and intelligence sharing in 2015, when PM Modi met Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud in Riyadh.

Mr. Naik has already been banned in the U.K. and Canada for his hate speech aimed against other religions, and is even being opposed by activists in Lebanon. He is among several banned Islamic scholars granted permanent residence in Malaysia, which he uses as a base, and travels, most frequently to Saudi Arabia.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 8:20:42 AM |

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