Indian National Extradited from Czech Republic to U.S. Over Alleged Murder-for-Hire Plot Against Sikh Separatist Leader

Indian national Nikhil Gupta, implicated in a murder-for-hire plot targeting a Sikh separatist leader, has been extradited from the Czech Republic, according to media reports on June 16.

Gupta, 52, was apprehended in the Czech Republic last year at the request of the U.S. government. He faces charges related to a conspiracy to assassinate Sikh separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. Gupta is expected to appear before a federal court in New York on Monday.

Currently, Gupta is being held at the federal Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn, where he is listed as an inmate. The Washington Post was the first to report his extradition.

“Gupta, who had been detained in the Czech Republic, arrived in New York over the weekend, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive legal proceedings. Typically, extradited defendants must appear in court within a day of their arrival in the country,” the daily reported.

Federal prosecutors allege that Gupta hired a hitman to eliminate Pannun and paid $415,000 upfront. They further claim that an unnamed Indian government official was involved in the scheme.

Gupta’s extradition coincides with the upcoming visit of U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to New Delhi for the annual ICET dialogue. It is anticipated that Sullivan will address the matter with his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval.

In response, India has denied any involvement in the plot and has launched an investigation into the allegations.

Gupta, through his attorney, has denied the charges, claiming he has been “unfairly charged.”

In a petition to the Indian Supreme Court, Gupta’s attorney, Rohini Musa, argued that her client is being unjustly prosecuted. “There is nothing on record to link the Petitioner to the massive alleged plot to assassinate the alleged victim,” Musa stated, as reported by The Washington Post.

Musa also expressed concerns over the legal representation Gupta received in the Czech Republic, suggesting it was compromised. She claimed that Gupta was given adverse legal advice from a Czech government-appointed attorney “under the undue influence of … U.S. Agencies” during the early stages of his detention. Additionally, she accused both India and the United States of using the situation to “blame each other for their foreign policy.”

This extradition comes at a critical time, given the sensitive nature of international relations and the implications of the indictment by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Pope Francis Apologizes for Reported Use of Derogatory Term Regarding Gay Men, Highlighting Tensions Within Catholic Church on LGBTQ+ Inclusion

Pope Francis issued an apology on Tuesday following a media storm sparked by his reported use of a vulgar term to describe gay men while reaffirming the Catholic Church’s prohibition on gay priests. The incident highlighted the tension between the church’s official stance on homosexuality and the presence of gay men within its ranks, as well as the desire of LGBTQ+ Catholics for full inclusion in the church.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni acknowledged the controversy surrounding Francis’ remarks, delivered during a closed-door meeting with Italian bishops on May 20. According to reports in the Italian media, Francis used the term “faggotness” in Italian while restating the Vatican’s ban on admitting gay men to seminaries and ordaining them as priests.

Bruni emphasized that Francis never intended to offend or express homophobic sentiments, expressing apologies to those who were offended by the reported use of the term. However, Bruni neither confirmed nor denied the pope’s use of the word, adhering to the Vatican’s tradition of confidentiality regarding discussions behind closed doors.

For advocates of LGBTQ+ rights within the Catholic Church, the issue extended beyond the specific term used by the pope. Natalia Imperatori-Lee, chair of the religious studies department at Manhattan College, emphasized the damage caused by the church’s continued prohibition on gay men entering the priesthood.

“The LGBTQ community seems to be a constant target of offhand, off-the-cuff ‘mistakes’ from people in the Vatican, including the pope, who should know better,” she remarked.

The context of Francis’ remarks was a meeting with the Italian bishops conference, during which a new document outlining training for Italian seminarians was discussed. The document reportedly aimed to introduce celibacy as the primary criterion for priests, regardless of sexual orientation, thereby suggesting a potential modification to the Vatican’s absolute ban on gay priests.

The Vatican’s prohibition on gay priests dates back to a 2005 document from the Congregation for Catholic Education, reiterated in a subsequent document in 2016. Critics have long condemned this position as homophobic, particularly given the presence of gay priests within the clergy.

The late Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and former Benedictine monk, estimated that up to 30% of the U.S. clergy was homosexually oriented. Similarly, the late Rev. Donald Cozzens argued that the priesthood in the U.S. was increasingly becoming dominated by gay men.

While Church teaching emphasizes the dignity and respect owed to gay individuals, it also categorizes homosexual activity as “intrinsically disordered.” Francis, known for his outreach to LGBTQ+ Catholics, has made efforts to engage with the community, but his comments have sometimes caused offense.

Francis’ use of colloquial language and informal style has occasionally led to controversy, as seen in his past remarks about homosexuality. Despite his efforts to promote inclusivity, he has faced criticism from LGBTQ+ advocates for maintaining certain traditional positions, such as opposing gender-affirming surgery.

New Ways Ministry, an organization advocating for LGBTQ+ Catholics, welcomed Francis’ apology but raised concerns about the underlying attitudes reflected in his comments and the broader ban on gay priests. Similarly, Andrea Rubera of Paths of Hope, an Italian association of LGBTQ+ Christians, expressed disappointment at the lack of a clear denial from the Vatican and called for a more inclusive dialogue within the Church.

Pope Francis’ apology for his reported use of a derogatory term underscored ongoing tensions within the Catholic Church regarding homosexuality and the inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals. While the incident prompted reflection on the language used by church leaders, it also highlighted the need for a deeper dialogue and reconsideration of existing policies regarding gay priests.

Nikki Haley Pledges Support for Trump Despite Past Criticisms, Urges Outreach to Her Supporters

Nikki Haley, who became a prominent rival and outspoken critic of Donald Trump during the Republican primary elections, has announced her intention to vote for the former US president in November. This revelation came during her address at the Hudson Institute think tank in Washington on Wednesday, marking her first public appearance since exiting the race in March. When questioned about who would better handle national security issues between Joe Biden and Trump, Haley provided her perspective.

The former UN ambassador and South Carolina governor outlined her criteria for selecting a president, which include supporting allies, holding adversaries accountable, endorsing capitalism and freedom, and reducing national debt. She acknowledged Trump’s imperfections in these areas, stating, “Trump has not been perfect on these policies. I have made that clear many, many times. But Biden has been a catastrophe. So I will be voting for Trump.”

Despite this endorsement, the 52-year-old Haley cautioned Trump not to take her supporters for granted. “Having said that, I stand by what I said in my suspension speech. Trump would be smart to reach out to the millions of people who voted for me and continue to support me and not assume that they’re just going to be with him. And I genuinely hope he does that.”

Haley’s decision places her alongside other notable Republicans like Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, former Attorney General William Barr, and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who, despite their previous criticisms, now support Trump as the party nominee. Throughout the contentious primary campaign, Haley had criticized Trump for lacking political viability, showing moral weakness, and being “thin-skinned and easily distracted.” She had advocated for moving beyond his “chaos.” Trump responded by dismissing reports that he might consider her as his running mate.

Haley’s reversal has sparked immediate backlash. Sarah Longwell, a political strategist and publisher of the conservative Bulwark website, tweeted, “So when Nikki Haley said, ‘It is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it who did not support him.’ She really meant, he can treat me and my voters like garbage and I’ll still fall in line and support him.” Former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh added, “This isn’t complicated: Nikki Haley believes Trump is unfit. And she believes he should never be back in the White House. But if she said that publicly, her career as a Republican would be over. So, as expected, she decided to not be truthful. To keep her career as a Republican.”

Although she exited the primaries in early March, Haley has continued to attract up to 20% in the contests, posing a potential challenge for Trump’s campaign. The former president has dismissed the necessity of courting Haley’s supporters, whereas Biden, during an event in Atlanta, stated, “Let me say, there’s always going to be a place for Haley voters in my campaign.”

Trump has also secured endorsements from other former Republican primary opponents, including North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.

At the Hudson Institute event, attended by several foreign ambassadors, Haley was vocally critical of far-right Republicans who advocate for “America first” isolationism, though she refrained from mentioning Trump directly. She commended House Speaker Mike Johnson for advancing aid for Israel and Ukraine through Congress.

“A growing number of Democrats and Republicans have forgotten what makes America safe,” she asserted. “A loud part of each party wants us to abandon our allies, appease our enemies, and focus only on the problems we have at home. They believe if we leave the world alone, the world will leave us alone. They even say ignoring global chaos will somehow make our country more secure. It will not. This worldview has already put America in great danger and the threat is mounting by the day.”

Haley’s critique extended to both parties, emphasizing the dangers of isolationism. She highlighted the increasing number of politicians who favor disengagement from global affairs, arguing that such an approach jeopardizes national security. Her remarks underscored the importance of maintaining international alliances and addressing global threats proactively.

The evolving dynamics within the Republican Party and Haley’s stance reflect the broader tensions and strategic considerations as the 2024 presidential election approaches. Her endorsement of Trump, despite past criticisms, exemplifies the complexities faced by many Republicans navigating the party’s future direction.

As the election nears, Haley’s role and influence within the party, along with her potential impact on voter alignment, will be closely watched. Her recent statements and the reactions they have elicited highlight the ongoing debates over leadership, policy priorities, and the path forward for the GOP.