India formally requests Malaysia to extradite Dr Zakir Naik

Zakir was awarded permanent residency in Malaysia in 2015. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Zakir was awarded permanent residency in Malaysia in 2015. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 13 — The government of India has made a formal request to the Malaysian government to send back its citizen and controversial Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik to face money laundering charges at home.

Its Ministry of External Affairs said that India’s justice system has never been questioned, in response to media queries following Dr Zakir’s allegations that he would not be accorded a fair hearing if he returned home where he has also been accused of hate mongering.

“India has extradition arrangements with many nations. In the past, there have been numerous cases of successful extradition to India. The fairness of the Indian justice system has never been in question.

“The Government of India has made a formal request for the extradition of Zakir Naik. We would continue to pursue the matter with Malaysia,” a statement on the Indian ministry’s website read.

Dr Zakir was awarded permanent residency in Malaysia in 2015, then home minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi confirmed in 2017.

The preacher has been evading the Indian authorities since 2016 when files were opened against him for allegedly making hate speeches and laundering money after five militants launched an attack at a bakery in Dhaka, Bangladesh that ended with 29 dead.

One of the attackers was reported to have claimed that he had been inspired by the preacher's speeches.

Locally, Dr Zakir has been accused of denigrating other faiths and being a threat to Malaysia’s multiethnic and multicultural harmony in the past.

On Monday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also said Malaysia "has a right not to extradite" Dr Zakir if he is not going to get a fair trial in India.

The following day, Dr Zakir was reported saying he would willingly accept the extradition to India if its Supreme Court gave a written assurance he would not be arrested or jailed pending conviction.

India’s Enforcement Directorate has been reported as saying it planned to get a court in Mumbai to issue a warrant for his arrest.

Indian media reported in 2017 that Dr Zakir was wanted by authorities for allegedly funding terrorism, and not due to his religious beliefs.

India’s National Intelligence Agency filed charges in late October 2017 against Dr Zakir whom it had previously dubbed a “terror suspect” in court last week, the Times of India reported.

The 53-year-old was reported to have been charged under India’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for heading an “unlawful association”; he was also charged with inciting youth to take up terror acts and join global terror groups such as the Islamic State.

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