No arrest on his return to India
The Maharashtra State Intelligence Department (SID) has given a clean chit to controversial preacher Zakir Naik, conceding there is simply no case to be made out against the televangelist for now. Sources in the special team of the SID handling the investigation ordered by the Maharashtra government said Naik will not and cannot be arrested on his return to India.
As part of his preliminary probe, the SID has studied hundreds of YouTube videos and speeches given by the controversial preacher in and out of India. A dossier of evidence has also been received and collected from the other intelligence teams in various states, including Hyderabad, where an ISIS module was reportedly inspired by Naik’s speeches, said a senior official.
“There is no case to be made out against the English-speaking preacher, except maybe the possible charge of hurting religious sentiments, but even that cannot be established from his speeches. We are tracking his movements and only if he speaks out of turn, can we ‘pin’ him down on a charge. For now, we are closely monitoring him,” said a senior police official, who on Monday conveyed the preliminary assessment of the SID findings to the ‘higher-ups’.
Senior SID officials said they have closely studied the statement of one of Naik’s close aides, who has reportedly alleged the preacher is investing money earned from his speeches into the stock market. “He (Mr Naik) recently fell out with the aide, who has alleged the preacher is using the ‘speech business’ for transferring gains into stocks. But that in itself cannot be a criminal offence ,” said an official.
There is no other strong evidence to link Naik to terror-related activities other than reported charges he inspired Dhaka and Hyderabad terrorists. His strong defence of religious codes, such as the ones imposed by the Taliban, references to Osama bin Laden and ISIS, do not result in any direct or indirect charges against him, senior officials told The Hindu .
Naik was to arrive in Mumbai from Mecca on Monday to address a press conference, but decided to change his route and head instead to Africa. Meanwhile, his family boarded the flight back to India. Supporters of the influential Salafist Islam preacher from Mumbai have already claimed there is no offence to be made out against Naik. His lawyers claim there is no offence to be made out, not even that of a ‘hate speech’, let alone of fanning terror-related sentiment.
“If he has talked about Osama bin Laden in one of the speeches that in itself does not constitute a charge or offence against him. If one bomber (in Bangladesh) says he was inspired by Naik’s speeches, how can he be held accountable?” said Naik’s lawyer Mubin Solkar of Solkar & Associates.
SID studied hundreds of YouTube videos and speeches given by the preacher in and out of country