Interpol takes up India’s red notice on fugitive Zakir Naik
Red notices are requests issued to Interpol’s 194 member states worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest fugitives wanted either for prosecution or to serve a sentence.Updated: Apr 24, 2019 07:41 IST
A high-powered panel of global law enforcement organisation Interpol last week took up India’s request for issuing a so-called red notice against fugitive Indian Islamic preacher, Dr Zakir Naik, 54, according to two Indian officials aware of the development who asked not to be named.
Red notices are requests issued to Interpol’s 194 member states worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest fugitives wanted either for prosecution or to serve a sentence.
Naik is wanted in India for money laundering and hate speech and also for allegedly promoting enmity and hatred between different religious communities.
He fled India after the terrorists, who attacked a Dhaka cafe and killed 22 people in July 2016, said they were Naik’s admirers.
The Interpol panel took up India’s request as the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has been trying have Naik declared as an international fugitive.
The preacher lives in Malaysia, where he has permanent residency. An Indian request for his extradition is pending with the Malaysian government since January 2018. In July 2018, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Naik would not be deported as long as he was not creating problems in Malaysia.
According to one of the officials, the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files (CCF) met on April 19 to discuss India’s request.
CCF is a five-member independent body that ensures requests from Interpol member states seeking red notices conform to the rules.
NIA has been arguing before the global law enforcement organisation that Naik was spreading hatred through his speeches, funding terrorists and laundering money over the years, according to the officials.
The Interpol cancelled a red notice against Naik in December 2017 as he was yet to be charged in India then.
Naik, too, approached the Interpol in 2017 claiming he was being targeted. He linked the cases against him to the alleged religious persecution of minorities in India.
NIA contested Naik’s claim in 2018 saying they have “solid evidence” against Naik.
NIA filed a charge sheet against Naik in October 2017 and submitted a copy of it to Interpol as well. “After we submitted a detailed charge sheet and other evidence establishing his crimes including religious conversions, inciting Muslim youth to join Jihad and routing massive funds, Interpol referred the red notice request to the CCF,’’ the second NIA official said.
The official added the panel met last week but that India is yet to be updated about its final decision. “We are positive that the CCF will recommend a global arrest warrant against Naik, which will restrict his movements.”
He added the panel will take a final call in a couple of days. The official said NIA wanted to be a part of the CCF meeting to convince its members regarding its case but did not get the requisite permission to do this.
Retired CBI officer NS Kharayat, who headed Interpol’s National Central Bureau (NCB) in India (CBI is the nodal agency for Interpol in India), told HT, “The CCF basically discusses the legal aspects of a red notice request. If they find any religious or political motive behind any request, they don’t issue the global notice. However, in the cases of terrorism, where a person has done an act of waging war against a sovereign nation, the CCF should immediately issue the red notice”.
In its charge sheet , NIA has accused Naik of deliberately insulting religious beliefs of the Hindus, Christians and Islamic sects like the Shias, and Barelvis. It said Naik’s speeches have influenced recruits to join the so-called Islamic State (IS), which overran swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014 and carried out attacks across the world. Iraq and Syria declared victories over the IS in 2018 and 2019.
The government has attached Naik’s properties since he fled India. His Islamic Research Foundation has been banned and some of his associates have been arrested.
Attempts to reach Naik for comment were unsuccessful.
In a speech in Malaysia’s Kangar in December, Naik insisted he had never broken any Indian law. “But because I was spreading peace, I was giving a solution for humanity, all the people who do not like peace to prevail, they do not like me,” news agency Reuters quoted him as saying. He claimed he was being targeted because of his work to spread Islam.
Interpol publishes red notices at the request of a member country. They must comply with Interpol’s Constitution and rules. A red notice is an international wanted person notice, but not an arrest warrant, and Interpol cannot compel any country to arrest someone, according to the Interpol website. In 2018, Interpol issued 13,516 red notices.