PETALING JAYA: Vocal lawyer Siti Kasim, who was part of a group which sued the former government for allegedly harbouring Zakir Naik, has come out strongly against Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s decision not to deport the controversial Indian preacher.
“Tun is talking nonsense,” Siti told FMT today.
She likened the decision to the prime minister’s defence of Australian mining company Lynas Corp, which was allowed to continue its operations in Pahang despite protests from activists and several ruling politicians.
“He is trying to defend Naik like he is defending Lynas. Both are toxic wastes,” she said.
Yesterday, Mahathir said Putrajaya has the right to refuse any demand from New Delhi to extradite Naik, who is facing money laundering charges involving about RM115 million.
Mahathir said it was similar to Australia’s refusal to deport convicted killer Sirul Azhar Umar.
“We requested Australia to extradite Sirul and they are afraid we are going to send him to the gallows.
“Zakir Naik in general feels that he is not going to get a fair trial (in India),” he said.
Naik was charged in absentia in India last month with money laundering. The country’s Enforcement Directorate accused him of acquiring about Rs1.9 billion (RM114.5 million) worth of criminal assets.
Naik, who denied the charges, said he was prepared to return to India to face charges but feared being jailed like many other Muslim suspects whom the courts found not guilty years later.
Siti questioned the comparison with Sirul, who was convicted of the brutal murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu, saying Naik has yet to stand trial for his alleged offences.
She said Australia’s refusal to extradite Sirul was because he faces the death penalty in Malaysia.
Siti and 18 individuals had filed a suit against the Malaysian government, accusing it of harbouring Naik, whom they said was a threat to Malaysia.
The High Court threw out the suit in February last year.
Meanwhile, Hindu activist Arun Dorasamy said it was premature for Mahathir to announce that Malaysia would reject India’s extradition request.
“India has yet to reach a judgment but we are already jumping. I think it’s foolish and hypocrisy of the highest order from the highest office,” he said.
Arun, who is the adviser of the Hindu Agamam Ani Malaysia Association, also questioned Mahathir for likening Naik’s case to that of Sirul.
“As we all know, the reason Australia does not want to extradite Sirul is because we practise the death penalty and they don’t,” he added. “That’s the only reason.
A Mumbai court is expected to decide on June 19 whether a non-bailable warrant of arrest should be issued against Naik. India could seek Interpol’s help to have him detained and sent back for trial.
Arun said he would organise a protest outside the home ministry if Malaysia refuses to extradite Naik.
“We will see after June 19 what happens and take it from there,” he said.