Nikhil Gupta facing human rights violations while in custody in Prague: court documents in Pannun case

Gupta's lawyer filed a motion seeking relevant defence materials, citing limited access to Gupta, the denial of consular access, and alleged human rights violations. The US opposed the motion

On 29 November, US federal prosecutors charged Indian national Nikhil Gupta of involvement in the foiled plot to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun (pictured) (photo: @Gurpatwant_6/X)
On 29 November, US federal prosecutors charged Indian national Nikhil Gupta of involvement in the foiled plot to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun (pictured) (photo: @Gurpatwant_6/X)
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PTI

Indian national Nikhil Gupta, charged by federal prosecutors in a murder-for-hire plot to kill a Khalistani separatist on American soil, is being subjected to human rights violations, including extended solitary confinement, while in custody in the Czech Republic, his lawyer has said in court documents.

The court documents also say Gupta was last in the United States in 2017.

Gupta, 52, was charged by federal prosecutors in an indictment unsealed in November last year with working with an Indian government employee in the foiled plot to kill Khalistani separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who holds dual US and Canadian citizenships, on American soil.

Gupta was arrested in Prague, the Czech Republic on June 30, 2023 and is being held there currently. The US government is seeking his extradition to America.

His attorney Jeff Chabrowe filed a ‘Motion to Compel Production of Discovery’ on 4 January in the US District Court, Southern District of New York, requesting the Court to direct federal prosecutors to provide “the defence materials relevant to its ability to defend the instant charges.”

In the motion, his attorney stated that Gupta, an Indian national, “was last in the United States in 2017.”

The motion states that Gupta's family has reported to the media that they have “limited access" to him, he is not allowed consular access and he "faces basic human rights violations in custody in Prague, including extended solitary confinement. A habeas petition has been filed on his behalf with the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic.”

US District Judge Victor Marrero had on January 8 given the government three days’ time to respond to the motion filed by Gupta’s attorney. The government, in its reply filed with the district court Wednesday, said Gupta’s motion asking for discovery material should be denied.

“The government respectfully submits this letter in opposition to defendant Nikhil Gupta’s motion to compel discovery during the pendency of his extradition proceedings in the Czech Republic,” federal prosecutors said.

They said that consistent with federal rules of criminal procedure, “the government is prepared to produce discovery promptly upon the defendant’s appearance in this District and arraignment on this case. Before then, however, the defendant is not entitled to discovery, and he identifies no good reason for the Court to order it.”

In the government’s response, US Attorney Damian Williams said that Gupta has identified no legal entitlement or justification for discovery at this time. “The government stands ready to provide discovery to him, like any other criminal defendant, promptly upon his appearance and arraignment in this District. His motion to compel discovery should be denied,” Williams said.

The US government notes in its reply that the 15-page superseding indictment contains the charges as well as additional factual details concerning the murder-for-hire plot and Gupta’s actions in furtherance of that plot.

As described in the superseding indictment, to facilitate the murder, Gupta arranged for an associate to make an initial USD 15,000 payment in cash to a US law enforcement undercover officer in Manhattan.

Over the course of several weeks, Gupta regularly discussed the alleged plot with the undercover officer and with a US law enforcement confidential source, whom Gupta believed to be a criminal associate, “including on video calls in which the defendant personally appeared.”

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Published: 11 Jan 2024, 12:34 PM
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