LOS ANGELES, CA. (Diya TV) – Indian national Nikhil Gupta, accused in a murder-for-hire scheme targeting a Sikh extremist on US soil, entered a plea of not guilty during his initial appearance in federal court in New York on Monday. Gupta, 52, had been extradited from the Czech Republic, where he was apprehended last year at the request of US authorities.

The charges against Gupta allege his involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate Khalistani separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in New York City. Pannun, who holds citizenship in both the United States and Canada, has been a prominent figure advocating for Khalistani separatism.

According to Jeffrey Chabrowe, Gupta’s attorney, his client vehemently denies the accusations. The extradition from the Czech Republic to the United States was facilitated despite Gupta’s legal efforts to contest it in the Czech Constitutional Court, which ultimately ruled against him.

US federal prosecutors claim Gupta acted under the guidance of an unnamed official from the Indian government. This assertion has triggered diplomatic sensitivity between the US and India, prompting India to initiate a thorough investigation into the allegations. In response to queries, Gupta’s attorney emphasized the complexity of the case and cautioned against premature conclusions.

“This is a matter of significant complexity for both nations,” Chabrowe remarked to PTI. “It is imperative that we allow the legal process to unfold without haste. Additional facts may emerge that could fundamentally alter the government’s allegations.”

Chabrowe asserted his commitment to vigorously defending Gupta and ensuring due process despite external pressures. He highlighted the importance of adhering to procedural fairness throughout the judicial proceedings.

The Czech Justice Minister confirmed Gupta’s extradition, underscoring the severity of the charges. “Based on my decision on June 3rd, Indian citizen Nikhil Gupta, suspected of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, has been extradited to the US,” stated Pavel Blazek in an official communication.

Federal prosecutors allege that Gupta arranged for a hitman to target Pannun, allegedly making an upfront payment of $15,000 toward the planned assassination. Gupta has consistently refuted these allegations through his legal counsel, asserting that he has been unjustly accused.

Recent reports by The Washington Post in April 2024 implicated Vikram Yadav, an officer with India’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), as the orchestrator of the plot, purportedly sanctioned by the then R&AW chief Samant Goel. These revelations have further complicated diplomatic relations between the US and India, prompting denials and assurances of investigative diligence from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

In response to media inquiries, the Indian government dismissed the allegations as baseless, emphasizing their commitment to investigating the evidence provided by the US authorities in the case against Gupta.

“The allegations made are without merit and lack substantiation,” stated a spokesperson from India’s Ministry of External Affairs. “We have initiated a high-level inquiry to examine the evidence shared by the United States pertaining to the alleged conspiracy to eliminate Pannun.”

As Gupta prepares to face the legal process in the United States, his defense team remains steadfast in their assertion of his innocence, pledging to contest the charges vigorously.

“This is a pivotal moment in ensuring justice for Mr. Gupta,” Chabrowe affirmed. “We will uphold his rights and challenge the accusations levied against him through the appropriate legal channels.”