Malaysia is yet to take a call on extraditing controversial preacher Zakir Naik to India and the matter could end up being decided by the country’s courts, a senior Malaysian minister told External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday when she raised the issue during a meeting in New Delhi.
Naik, who left India in July 2016, is wanted on terror and money laundering charges. In January, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) made a formal request to Malaysia to deport Naik. Malaysia’s Minister of Human Resources M Kula Segaran, who is on an India visit, said Swaraj sought Naik’s early extradition during the meeting.
“She was asking for the latest on Zakir Naik, whether he will be deported from Malaysia, I did say that no final decision has been taken by the Malaysian government,” he said. He also told Swaraj that the Malaysian government could also leave it to the courts to decide.
Asked how the extradition request could progress according to Malaysia’s laws, he said, “If the government decides to deport him, that is end of the matter for us, but Zakir Naik can still challenge (it). If the government decides not to deport, we can refer it to the court and ask the court to decide the matter.”
Malaysia will ensure necessary “justice and fairplay” in the matter, he asserted. Asked if that means the court could end up deciding on his deportation, the Malaysian minister answered in the affirmative. He added that first the cabinet led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad will decide.
Naik, who is in Malaysia, in a statement published in Malaysian newspapers in July, had thanked Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for examining his case from an “unbiased perspective”. Mahathir, who had met the radical Indian cleric in July, had said that Malaysia will not deport Naik to India as long as he does not create problems in the country. The previous Malaysian government had granted Naik permanent resident status.
India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), that probes terror cases, had last year filed a charge sheet in a court against Naik for allegedly inciting youth to take up terror activities, giving hate speeches and promoting enmity between communities. It had first registered a case against Naik under anti-terror laws in 2016.
Naik is also under investigation for issuing hate speeches that reportedly inspired a deadly terror attack on a popular cafe in Dhaka in 2016. Naik’s Mumbai-based non-government organisation, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), has been declared an unlawful association by the Union Home Ministry.
In a tweet, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said Kula Segaran and Swaraj discussed ways to enhance capacity building and fostering people-to-people contacts.