New Delhi in touch with family of Indian suspect in Sikh murder plot in US

FILE PHOTO: Indian suspect in plot to kill Sikh separatist to appear in NY court

By Krishn Kaushik

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - New Delhi is in touch with the family of an Indian man who is accused of plotting with an Indian government official to kill a Sikh separatist in the United States, the foreign ministry said on Friday in reaction to a Reuters report.

Nikhil Gupta, extradited to the United States this month after his arrest in Prague last year, has been accused by U.S. federal prosecutors of unsuccessfully plotting with an Indian official to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a U.S. citizen.

Gupta, 52, pleaded not guilty on Monday to murder-for-hire conspiracy charges in a court in Manhattan and a source close to his family told Reuters on Thursday that it wanted New Delhi's help to "get justice".

"We have so far not received any request for consular access from Gupta, but his family has got in touch with us," Indian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal told reporters. "We are in touch with the family members and we are looking at the matter as to what can be done on their request."

The U.S. government has said it thwarted the alleged plot to kill Pannun and warned India about concerns of its involvement.

India has designated Pannun an "individual terrorist" but has dissociated itself from the plot, saying it goes against government policy. Pannun advocates for a sovereign Sikh state in northern India.

The source, who declined to be named given the sensitive nature of a case that has diplomatic implications, had said Gupta's family has not been able to establish direct contact with him since his extradition.

"Regardless of the allegations raised against him, he is an Indian citizen and a patriot who deserves the rights and protections granted by the government to its citizens."

The source said the family believed Gupta "is a victim in this series of events" but that "he will get justice".

(Reporting by Krishn Kaushik and Shivam Patel; Editing by Alex Richardson)