Indian man suspected of involvement in plot to kill Sikh separatist extradited to US

An Indian man accused of involvement in an unsuccessful plot to kill a Sikh separatist leader on American soil has been extradited to the US from the Czech Republic, officials said.

Nikhil Gupta, a 52-year-old Indian citizen, has been accused of plotting with an Indian government official to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a separatist leader seeking a sovereign sikh state and labelled as a terrorist by New Delhi.

This comes three weeks after Mr Gupta’s request to the Czezh authorities to halt his extradition was rejected.

The federal Bureau of Prisons website confirmed that Mr Gupta was currently lodged at the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn, as seen in the inmate search by his name.

His extradition and detention in Brookly has also been confirmed by a source familiar with the matter who did not want to be identified, according to Reuters.

The US officials had confirmed in November last year that an Indian government official had directed the plot in the attempted murder of Mr Pannun, who holds American and Canadian citizenship. Mr Gupta has been charged with conspiracy in the same assassination plot.

He was arrested in June last year under a bilateral extradition treaty between the US and the Czech Republic, according to the Associated Press. Mr Gupta had travelled to Prague in June and was arrested there.

Last month, he had requested officials in the Czech Republic to halt his extradition to the US but a Czech court rejected his petition and allowed the Czech justice minister to extradite him.

According to reports, Mr Gupta was recruited to murder Mr Pannun by an unnamed Indian government employee who has described himself as a "senior field officer" with responsibilities in “security management” and “intelligence”, according to the US indictment seen by the Associated Press.

“We have so many targets,” Mr Gupta was heard saying in a recorded audio call, according to the indictment. “We have so many targets. But the good news is this, the good news is this: Now no need to wait.”

He has also claimed to have served in the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force and been trained in "battle craft" and "weapons”.

The extradition has been welcomed by Mr Pannun, who accused the Indian man of acting on the orders of the Indian government.

“Nikhil Gupta is just a foot soldier,” Mr Pannun told Reuters, alleging that those who hired him were senior members of the Indian government acting on the direction of prime minister Narendra Modi.

Mr Pannun has been a leading advocate for the Khalistan movement, which seeks to establish an independent Sikh homeland in India’s Punjab state.

Mr Modi’s administration in New Delhi has dissociated itself from the plot against Mr Pannun, calling it against government policy. It has said it would formally investigate security concerns raised by Washington.

The latest reports of assassination plots allegedly ordered by officials in India have soured New Delhi’s relations with Washington and Toronto, where most of the Sikh separatist leaders reside.

Mr Gupta’s lawyers have not issued any comment. Officials from the US Justice Department and Czech authorities have also declined any statement on completion of the Indian man’s extradition.