Three Khalistani extremists have been convicted for the attempted mu of Harnek Singh, a renowned radio host based in Auckland, known for his outspoken criticism of Khalistan ideology, The Australia Today reported.
Sarvjeet Sidhu, 27, admitted his guilt in the attempted murder case, whereas Sukhpreet Singh, 44, was convicted of being an accessory.
According to The Australia Today, which cited the NZ Herald, a third person, a 48-year-old resident of Auckland whose name is currently withheld, orchestrated the attack. This individual held a grudge against Harnek Singh due to his outspoken criticism of the separatist movement.
In the course of the proceedings, Judge Mark Woolford underscored the importance of safeguarding the community and establishing a robust deterrent against religious extremism.
On 23 December 2020, Harnek Singh fell victim to an attack in his own driveway, perpetrated by a band of religious fanatics. He suffered over 40 stab wounds and required more than 350 stitches and multiple surgeries to recover.
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".
Harnek Singh, who goes by the name Nekki, was trailed by three cars filled with men who eventually stabbed him almost fatally.
He managed to lock the door of his vehicle and drew the attention of nearby residents by honking the horn, averting a possible tragic outcome of bleeding to death due to the severe stab wounds, according to the Australia Today.
Earlier, Avtar Singh, a former bodybuilder, told the court he used to be friends with the man with name suppression, however, he soon stopped associating with the man whom he labelled a "thug" and "mafia" in 2018.
"He has a way around people, especially broken people," Singh said.
Baljinder, a friend of Avtar, informed the court that he was solicited to murder Harnek, but he refused.
He further stated that Jaspal Singh contacted him on 23 December 23, saying, "Job is done, he's no longer going to be on the radio".
The report indicates that a 48-year-old defendant, who is currently under temporary name suppression, was absent during the attack. This man, the court was told, harboured a years-long resentment against Hranek Singh as the popular Kiwi radio host was vocal against the Khalistan.
According to The Australia Today, Harnek Singh expressed in court that his views on Sikhism likely lean more towards the liberal side, in contrast to his critics who tend to be more fundamentalist or conservative.
In a victim impact statement read aloud by prosecutors, Harnek Singh described the ongoing fear his family faces, "My family faces fear each day when the sun goes down."
He expressed gratitude to the New Zealand justice system for ensuring that "no one is above the law, not even religion."
Harnek Singh addressed the defendants directly, stating, "You came to kill me. You tried to silence me. You wanted to send a chilling message to all those who express their disagreement with your unorthodox religious views. But you failed."
He continued, "I will continue to express my opinions and beliefs as I always have. The only chilling message you have managed to send is to people with the same views and opinion as yours that actions have consequences and that in a country like New Zealand, the law does not bend for you if your wrongful acts are in the name of God."
The judge echoed Harnek Singh's words while sentencing the defendant, as reported by The Australia Today, referencing NZ Herald.
The 48-year-old mastermind behind the attack received a sentence of 13-and-a-half years, with a minimum period of imprisonment of nine years before parole eligibility. Sarvjeet Sidhu was sentenced to nine-and-a-half years' imprisonment, while Sukhpreet Singh received six months of home detention.
Notably, Jagraj Singh and Gurbinder Singh were exonerated due to a lack of substantial evidence.
Meanwhile, Jobanpreet Singh and Hardeep Singh Sandhu are set to receive their sentencing in the early part of the coming year for their alleged participation in the attempted assassination of Harnek Singh.
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