India will soon ask the United Arab Emirates to deport a controversial Islamic preacher in connection with the alleged misuse of foreign funds donated to his NGO, a government lawyer said Friday.
A Mumbai court on Thursday issued a so-called non-bailable arrest warrant (NBW) for televangelist preacher Zakir Naik. He came under the Indian government’s radar after Bangladeshi media reports claimed that at least two perpetrators of a terrorist attack at Dhaka’s Holey Artisan Bakery café, in which 20 hostages were killed in July 2016, were influenced by his sermons.
Naik, a 51-year-old Indian citizen and founder of the Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), repeatedly ignored summons issued by India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) to appear before a special court hearing allegations against his NGO, Hiten Venegaonkar, a lawyer representing the directorate, told BenarNews.
Naik left India in June 2016 and has since been living in the Middle East, Venegaokar said, adding that the televangelist is in the UAE.
“The NBW order will soon be sent to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which in turn would send it to the UAE, where Naik is ensconced at present,” Venegaokar said.
“India has an extradition treaty with the UAE and the NBW empowers the police in UAE to take him into custody and produce him before the local magistrate for deportation,” Venegaonkar said.
The Indian government imposed a five-year ban on Naik’s research foundation in November 2016, citing violations by the NGO under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
The country’s National Investigation Directorate has also accused the preacher of making inflammatory remarks, such as praising late al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, supporting suicide attacks and denouncing Hindu gods during sermons delivered through Peace TV, a channel partly funded by the IRF.
Tarak Sayyad, Naik’s lawyer, told BenarNews he would challenge the arrest warrant in the Mumbai High Court next week, saying, “The issuing of the NBW is out of the jurisdiction of the court since there is no formal complaint against Dr. Naik.”
However, Venegaokar said he sought NBW because Naik had ignored four summons since January ordering him to appear before the court to record his statement.
Naik had offered to give his statement through video-conferencing, which wasn’t acceptable to the directorate, Venegaokar said.
Venegaokar submitted an email sent by Naik in which the preacher stated: “I have never done anything that is outside the framework of law or contrary to what the law of [the] land stipulated. As currently I am not in the country, it is taking substantial effort on the part of my people to collate all the related data to be given to you.”