The Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday said a formal request for the extradition of religious preacher Zakir Naik has been made to the Malaysian government, a day after Naik claimed that investigating agencies in India were trying to pin charges on him on the instructions of their “political bosses”.
“India has made a formal request for the extradition of Zakir Naik,” Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. “We would continue to pursue the matter with Malaysia.”
Kumar also asserted that the fairness of the Indian justice system has never been in question. “India has extradition arrangements with many nations. In the past, there are numerous cases of successful extradition to India,” he added.
The ministry’s statement comes two days after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the country has a right to not extradite Naik. “Zakir in general feels that he is not going to get a fair trial [in India],” Mohamad was quoted as saying by The Star on Monday.
The Malaysian leader also compared the situation to Australia refusing to extradite former police commando Sirul Azhar Umar, who was sentenced to death in Malaysia in 2015, for killing a Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu.
“Any rational mind will see that the Indian agencies are not being driven by their duty of solving a crime but by the will of their political bosses,” IANS quoted from Zakir Naik’s statement on Tuesday. “Fortunately for me, Interpol is not driven by Indian politics. Somehow they are not convinced about my ‘crime’ the way Indian agencies have been claiming.”
He said he was willing to return to India if the Supreme Court gave it to him in writing that he will not be arrested till he is convicted. Naik said he trusted the Indian judiciary, but had no faith in the prosecution system.
Last month, the Enforcement Directorate had filed a chargesheet against Naik on charges of money laundering of around Rs 193 crore and creating illegal real estate assets in India and abroad. The money laundering inquiry was based on a first information report filed by the National Investigation Agency against Naik and others for allegedly indulging in unlawful activities by promoting enmity and hatred between different religious groups through provocative messages, The Hindu had reported.
Naik, who has a permanent residency permit in Malaysia, has been on the Indian government’s radar ever since allegations arose that he had inspired one of the terrorists behind a Dhaka restaurant attack on July 1, 2016. He was also accused of meeting two brothers from Kerala who were among those who went missing in West Asia and were feared to have joined the Islamic State group. On November 15, 2016, the Centre banned Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation with immediate effect.