New Delhi: Accusing “a Hindu nationalist government” in India of targeting minorities for “political means”, elusive Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik has requested the INTERPOL to turn down the Indian government’s plea and not issue a red corner notice against him.
Accessed exclusively by CNN-News18, a letter sent by Naik’s lawyers to the INTERPOL Secretary General in France has sought for a refusal to issue and publish the red notice on the ground that it does not comply with the INTERPOL’s Constitution and Rules.
Stating that “he is not a fugitive from justice,” London-based attorney Corker Binning’s letter denied allegations of money laundering and inciting terrorism while pressing for a greater vigilance in this case owing to the current political dispensation in India.
“When a Hindu nationalist government launches dubious criminal proceedings against a theologian with enormous support among India’s Muslim minority, and seeks to tarnish his reputation with vague allegations of inspiring terrorism, the need for particular vigilance is obvious,” read the letter.
It added that the Indian criminal proceedings are being misused for political means, to inhibit peaceful exercise of Dr Naik’s freedom of expression. “And to inhibit the peaceful exercise of Dr Naik’s freedom of religion, and the peaceful exercise of the right to practise their religion of Dr Naik’s followers in India and elsewhere,” said the letter.
By issuing a red notice request, Naik alleged, the Indian authorities are now seeking to misuse the processes of INTERPOL for similar purposes.
The letter also made it apparent that Naik is not going to come back to India to face the charges. “Given the apparent political and religious motivation to the charges and the obvious risk of protracted pre-trial imprisonment in harsh and violent conditions, Dr Naik’s lawyers in India advised him not to return to India until the matters could be resolved with the authorities,” it said.
Citing 2016 India Human Rights Report, Naik’s attorney also complained about what he called as “serious flaws in the Indian penal process” and “dangerous prison conditions and very lengthy pre-trial delays.”
The letter contended that “credible allegations of physical abuse during pre-trial investigations are not uncommon, particularly in terrorism-related cases and cases involving Muslims and members of other religious minorities.”
The attorney claimed that even though it was decided that Naik will not go back to India for facing prosecution, “explicit offers” for Dr Naik to co-operate with the criminal inquiry and to be interviewed by video conferencing were made. “Unfortunately those offers have not been taken up,” he said.
“Dr Naik’s response to the money laundering allegations is that they are contrived and evidently unfounded,” said the attorney, adding he was being framed on certain unsubstantiated reports that one of the assailants of the July 2016 Bangladesh terrorist attack, which had killed 29 people, was Naik’s Facebook follower.
“The suggestion that this individual had been ‘inspired’ by Dr Naik was picked up by the media in India, where a Hindu nationalist Government was (and continues to be) in power. Media reports advanced vague, unparticularised or simply false allegations that Dr Naik had condoned terrorist allegations,” read the letter.
It further pointed out Article 3 of the INTERPOL forbids the organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character. “We are writing with an urgent request for INTERPOL not to comply with India’s request on the basis that it was issued in breach of the strict prohibition of political or religious activities under Article 3 of INTERPOL’s Constitution,” stated the letter.