In a setback to Indian investigating agencies who have not yet been able to lay hands on controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, the Interpol has once again refused a Red Corner Notice (RCN) against Naik citing lack of evidence and proof of wrongdoing. The international police organisation has also instructed all its offices to delete all data on Naik from its files.
In a letter dated July 22, the Interpol has said Naik is not subject to any Interpol RNC or diffusion notice.
The decision was taken by the Interpol’s commission in its 109th session held on July 1 to July 5, 2019. Subsequently, the Interpol general secretariat deleted all data pertaining to Naik on July 15, 2019, as per a letter from Interpol’s commission for control of files.
The Interpol’s decision comes as a setback to the Indian government that has been persistently trying to get the international police to issue an RCN against the Islamic preacher. Last week, the Maharashtra police once again said that a group of ISIS inspired youth had been influenced by Naik’s speeches and underwent training to make explosives and weapons . However, the charges against Naik have to be substantiated with evidence in the court where the anti-terror squad of the Maharashtra police has filed the chargesheet .
Meanwhile, this is the third failed attempt by the Indian government in convincing the Interpol of criminal charges against Naik. The first attempt was back in mid-2017. It is understood that the Indian government had multiple meetings and presentations with the Interpol team in New Delhi in the last twelve months, said a statement issued by Naik.
In a letter addressed to Zakir Naik, the Interpol’s commission secretariat stated that “after a thorough examination of the elements before it, the commission found that the data (read “charges”) raised questions as to compliance with applicable rules”. The statement implies that the charges and allegations against Naik were unsubstantiated and vague, and the Indian authorities had failed to follow the due process of Interpol’s rules of charges and proof submission.
The session was listening to the charges made by the Indian government through the NCB of India against Zakir Naik of “promoting enmity between two different religious groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony, being a member of unlawful association etc".
The Indian government, through the MHA, had banned Zakir Naik and his organisation, the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) in November 2016. Following the ban, all operations of IRF were stopped, and all the staff relieved of their duties.
Since the ban in 2016, the Indian government has shifted between charges of terrorism and charges of money laundering against Naik. Both the charges, however, have failed to stick in any court of law. On the contrary, there have been instances when the appellate court has reprimanded the agencies for not proving the allegations with evidence.
This is the third instance of Interpol refusing or cancelling the Indian government’s demand for red corner notice against Naik. The first time was over two years ago when it cancelled the provisional RCN as the Indian government failed to produce charges and evidences. The second time was when the Indian government submitted a chargesheet to the Interpol in late 2017. A year later, and despite pressure from the Indian government throughout 2018, the Interpol refused to issue an RCN for the same reasons. The addition of money laundering charges to the chargesheet does not seem to have impacted Interpol’s latest decision. Meanwhile the NIA is yet to respond to the Interpol move and the latest statement issued by Naik.