Pannun plot: Indian accused pleads not guilty in US court, first visuals emerge

Indian national Nikhil Gupta pleaded not guilty in a US court to charges of plotting to assassinate Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on American soil. Gupta was extradited to the US from the Czech Republic last week.
Pannun plot: Indian accused pleads not guilty in US court, first visuals emerge
Anjali Raj / Jaano Junction

Nikhil Gupta, the Indian national accused of being involved in a murder-for-hire plot against Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on American soil, pleaded not guilty in a federal court in New York on Monday.

Accused by US authorities of collaborating with an Indian government official to kill Pannun, an American citizen, 52-year-old Gupta was recently extradited from the Czech Republic, where he was arrested last year.

Gupta was presented before a US Magistrate court, which ordered him detained without bail until his next court appearance on June 28. His lawyer, Jeffrey Chabrowe, described the case as "complex" and said he would pursue a vigorous defence.

Here's the latest in the alleged murder-for-hire plot against Pannun:

Czech Republic Police shared the first visuals of Nikhil Gupta’s extradition to the US on social media platform X. They stated, “The suspect in an assassination plot is now in US custody," and confirmed Gupta was safely extradited from Prague, showing a blurred video of him boarding a plane.

Nikhil Gupta was arrested in Prague last June and fought extradition until a Czech court ruled against his petition last month. Czech Justice Minister Pavel Blazek confirmed his extradition to the US on Friday.

Gupta faces charges of murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, each carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. His lawyer Jeffrey Chabrowe cautioned against jumping to conclusions, stating that "background and details will develop that may cast government allegations into an entirely new light."

US Attorney General Merrick Garland asserted that the US will not tolerate attempts to harm its citizens. He stated that Gupta "will now face justice in an American courtroom" for his alleged role in the plot directed by an Indian government official.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the probe agency will not tolerate attempts by foreign nationals or anyone else to repress constitutionally-protected freedoms in the US. "We will continue to work with our partners at home and abroad to protect our citizens and these sacred rights," he said.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the alleged target of the plot, referred to Gupta as a "foot soldier" and expressed confidence in the US justice system to hold accountable all those involved, including the Indian officials behind the plot, according to a Reuters report.

US prosecutors allege that Gupta conspired with an Indian government official (identified in court documents as CC-1) to kill Pannun. According to the complaint, CC-1, described as a "senior field officer" with an intelligence background, recruited Gupta in May 2023 to orchestrate the assassination.

When asked whether National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan would raise the matter during his visit to India, NSC Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby declined to provide details, stating, "The main focus of his visit was to look for ways to deepen the US-India bilateral relationship, particularly when it comes to emerging technology."

The Indian government has denied any involvement, stating that such actions are against government policy. India also launched a high-level investigation into the allegations.

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Pannun plot: Indian accused pleads not guilty in US court, first visuals emerge

Last month, the US expressed satisfaction with India's initial steps towards accountability but stressed that further action was needed.

Source: India Today

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