Three individuals, identified as Khalistan supporters, have been sentenced in New Zealand in connection with the attempted murder of prominent Auckland-based radio host Harnek Singh.
Harnek Singh, known for his vocal opposition to the Khalistan ideology, was attacked on December 23, 2020, in his driveway by a group of religious fundamentalists, media reports said.
Sarvjeet Sidhu, aged 27, admitted guilt to attempted murder, while Sukhpreet Singh, aged 44, was found guilty of being an accessory.
The third person, a 48-year-old Auckland resident with interim name suppression, was identified as the mastermind behind the plot. He had a deep-seated resentment against Harnek Singh for his views on Khalistan.
This verdict comes at a time when tensions surrounding the Khalistani issue, a matter that has strained relations between India and Canada ties, continues.
Harnek Singh’s staunch opposition to Khalistan had made him a target for those aligned with the ideology. During the court hearing, Judge Mark Woolford spoke of the importance of community protection and the necessity for a strong deterrent against religious fanaticism.
The 2020 attack left Harnek Singh with over 40 stab wounds, necessitating more than 350 stitches and multiple surgeries for his recovery.
Judge Woolford remarked, “It bears all the hallmarks of religious fanaticism. Sentencing in this context requires a different approach. The emphasis must be placed on protecting the community from further violence, and it is essential to send a strong message of deterrence to others.”
The court heard that Harnek Singh had been followed by three cars before the assailants attacked him, inflicting severe injuries.
Fortunately, he managed to seek help by locking himself in his vehicle and alerting neighbours.
Defendant described as a ‘thug’, ‘mafia’
The court also received testimony from individuals who had insights into the defendant with interim name suppression.
Avtar Singh, a former acquaintance of the defendant, described the individual as a “thug” and “mafia.” Another friend, Baljinder, revealed that he had been asked to carry out the attack but declined.
In a victim statement, Harnek Singh expressed the ongoing fear his family faces, stating, “My family faces fear each day when the sun goes down.” He commended the New Zealand justice system for ensuring that “no one is above the law, not even religion.”
The 48-year-old mastermind received a 13-and-a-half-year sentence, with a minimum period of nine years before parole eligibility. Sarvjeet Sidhu was sentenced to nine-and-a-half years, while Sukhpreet Singh received six months of home detention.
(With inputs from agencies)