Czech court okays extradition of US murder plot accused

A member of United Hindu Front organisation holds a banner depicting Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a lawyer believed to be based in Canada designated as a Khalistani terrorist by the Indian authorities during a rally along a street in New Delhi on September 24, 2023
Nikhil Gupta has been charged with an alleged plot to assassinate US citizen Gurpatwant Singh Pannun (pictured) [Getty Images]

The Czech Constitutional Court has rejected an Indian man's petition against his extradition to the US over an alleged plot to assassinate an American citizen in New York.

Nikhil Gupta has been charged by the US government with trying to hire a hitman to assassinate US-based Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

Mr Gupta is in jail in Prague. A final decision on his extradition will be taken by the country's justice minister.

The charges against Mr Gupta carry up to 20 years in prison.

In November 2023, US prosecutors charged Mr Gupta with a plot to kill at least four Sikh separatists in North America, including Mr Pannun.

They said that Mr Gupta had paid $100,000 (£79,000) in cash to a hitman to assassinate Mr Pannun, a dual US-Canadian citizen, in New York.

But the hitman was actually an undercover federal agent, prosecutors said.

Mr Gupta was allegedly directed by an Indian government official who was not named or charged in the indictment.

India has designated Mr Pannun a terrorist, an allegation he denies, claiming to be an activist who believes in the movement for Khalistan, or a separate Sikh homeland.

The White House said it raised the alleged assassination plot with India at the most senior level.

India officials distanced themselves from the plot, saying such actions were against government policy.

It also said it had formed a committee to investigate the allegations against Mr Gupta.

In January, India's Supreme Court rejected a plea from Mr Gupta which asked it to aid his release and help him get a fair trial. The petition in India had claimed that Mr Gupta was arrested by "self-claimed" US federal agents and has not yet been given a fair trial.

India's top court said it would not intervene in the case, adding that it was up to the government to take action.