Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said his country has the right not to extradite Islamic preacher Zakir Naik if he is not going to be accorded justice. Mahathir Mohamad told the Malaysian media that Zakir, in general, feels that he was not going to get a fair trial in India.
He said the situation was the same with Australia not sending Sirul Azhar Umar, a former bodyguard who was sentenced to death in 2015 for the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, back to Malaysia.
"We requested Australia to extradite Sirul and they are afraid we are going to send him to the gallows," he said.
"Zakir in general feels that he is not going to get a fair trial (in India)," Mahathir said after opening the affordable homes scheme at Lipat Kajang in Jasin in Melaka on Monday, The Star reported.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has so far arrested two of Naik's aides, Amir Gazdar and Najamuddin Sathak, while Naik himself is absconding and is in Malaysia.
Naik was booked by the ED in 2016 based on a National Investigation Agency (NIA) FIR that was registered under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
The NIA in the past has said the Islamic preacher "deliberately and maliciously insulted the religious beliefs of Hindus, Christians and non-Wahabi Muslims, particularly Shias, Sufis and the Barelvis, with the intention of outraging their religious feelings."
It had said Naik's organisation, IRF and Ms Harmony Media, "have been instrumental in the maximum circulation of such incriminating speeches".
In a recent interview to 'The Week' magazine, Naik said he has faith in the judicial system, but it was better before than it is now.
"Before the BJP government came, you could speak against the government, and at least 80 per cent of the times you would get justice. Today, the chances are 10-20 per cent.
"Moreover, if we see the history, more than 90 per cent Muslims who faced terror charges have been let free after 10-15 years. So if I look at an average, I will be behind bars for about 10 years, and my entire mission would get disrupted. Why should I be a fool," he said.
The preacher said the NIA can question him in Malaysia, if they want.
When asked whether he will return to India if he has an assurance of justice, Naik said,"If there is an assurance from the Supreme Court of India, that if Dr Zakir Naik comes, they will not arrest me till I am convicted, I will come."
The preacher was booked by the NIA after his name cropped up during the probe of a terror attack on Gulshan's Holey Artisan Bakery (cafe) in Dhaka's posh diplomatic area, claimed by the Islamic State terror group. Twenty people, mostly foreigners, were killed in the brutal late-night attack on July 1, 2016 after the attackers took diners and restaurant staff hostage.
The NIA had registered a case against him and his organisation Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) under anti-terror laws and for allegedly promoting enmity between groups on the basis of religion and race.
Naik said he has never told anyone to resort to terrorism.
(With PTI inputs)