MELAKA - Malaysia has the right not to extradite controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik to India, if it feels he is not going to be accorded justice, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday (June 10).
Indian national Mr Zakir is wanted by New Delhi to face money laundering charges. He has espoused controversial views in his lectures and videos when answering issues linked to Hinduism with his puritan brand of Islam.
But Mr Zakir, 53, is a popular figure in Muslim-majority Malaysia and has been granted permanent residency status in the country. Previous news reports say he is also a citizen of Saudi Arabia.
The directorate has previously charged Mr Zakir with laundering 1.93 billion rupees (S$38 million) in illicit funds.
In October 2014, he was charged by India's National Investigation Agency with inciting terror and delivering hate speeches.
Tun Mahathir likened his stance on not extraditing Mr Zakir to Australia refusing to send back a Malaysian fugitive, Sirul Azhar Umar, as Canberra was worried that the man would be hanged in Malaysia, local media reported.
Dr Mahathir was asked to comment on a news report that India's enforcement directorate would seek Interpol's cooperation to detain Zakir with an eye on extraditing him from Malaysia to face money laundering charges back home.
The directorate, according to The Hindu newspaper, is working on getting a non-bailable warrant for Mr Zakir's arrest from a Mumbai court, which it expects to secure on June 19.
Sirul, a former Malaysian police commando who was sentenced to death in 2015 for the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, managed to escape to Australia while on release pending appeal. Australi has refused to send him back to Malaysia which practices capital punishment.
Said Dr Mahathir, after officiating at an event in Melaka state: "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)," PM Mahathir said, as quoted by The Star.
Mr Zakir in his lectures had said the death penalty should be imposed on homosexuals and those who abandon the Islamic faith, media reports have said.
Bangladesh in 2017 suspended a television channel that featured Mr Zakir after the media reported that militants who attacked a Dhaka cafe, killing 22 people, were admirers of him.
Britain banned Mr Zakir from entering in 2010.