Zakir Naik says won’t return to India unless assured fair trial

Zakir Naik says won't return to India unless assured fair trial
Mumbai: Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik addresses a press conference through Skype in Mumbai, on July 15, 2016. (Photo: IANS)

New Delhi: Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, wanted by Indian investigating agencies for inciting youth to take up terror activities, on Wednesday said he will not come back unless assured fair prosecution.

“The news of my coming to India is totally baseless and false. I have no plans to come to India till I don’t feel safe from unfair prosecution. Insha Allah when I feel that the government will be just and fair, I will surely return to my homeland,” the founder of NGO Islamic Research Foundation said in a statement.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) said it has no information about the return of the televangelist to India on Wednesday.

“We have no information about this. We are verifying the news reports,” an NIA spokesperson said.

Naik is accused of spreading hatred by his provocative speeches, promoting enmity between communities, funding terrorists and laundering several crores of rupees over the years.

Rumour about Naik’s return to India spread after a section of Indian news channels, quoting sources in the Malaysian government, aired news that the 51-year-old fugitive could be deported as early as Wednesday night.

Naik, who fled India on July 1, 2016, after terrorists in neighbouring Bangladesh said they were inspired by his speeches. He is currently living in Malaysia.

In November 2016, the NIA registered a case against the televangelist at its Mumbai branch under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. His Mumbai-based NGO Islamic Research Foundation has already been declared an unlawful association by the Union Home Ministry.

The preacher came under the lens of security agencies after some terrorists, allegedly involved in the attack on a cafe in Dhaka in July 2016, reportedly claimed they were inspired by his speeches.

In December last year, Interpol turned down NIA’s request for a Red Corner notice (RCN) against Naik, saying no chargesheet was filed against him at the time of submission of the request.

The NIA, which had made the RCN request through the Central Bureau of Investigation in May 2017, however was quick to clarify that the ground was merely a “technical” one as the chargesheet was filed subsequently on October 26, 2017, “a fact that Interpol did not take cognisance of”.