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Sikh protesters stand outside of Surrey Provincial Court, where four suspects arrested by Canadian police for the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, appear, in Surrey, on May 21.Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters

India’s top diplomat in Western Canada has moved to a new job in the Mediterranean as the RCMP probe whether the murder of a Sikh activist in Surrey, B.C., last year was tied to agents of the Indian government.

Manish, who goes by only one name, left his posting earlier this month after nearly four years as consul-general of India in Vancouver, a tenure longer than the three years an Indian diplomat typically spends at one station, according to a statement sent Tuesday by the High Commission of India in Canada.

Mr. Manish was first appointed to the new position of India’s High Commissioner to Cyprus last July and was expected to move to the Mediterranean and “take up the assignment shortly,” according to a news release posted by the Indian government last summer. The High Commission did not say Tuesday why he remained in Canada, but noted that sometimes the length of these posts vary because of “administrative exigencies.”

For much of his final year here, Sikh activists in Metro Vancouver accused him of playing a role in the June 18 killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar at a Surrey gurdwara. India’s government classified Mr. Nijjar as a terrorist in 2021 for his work advocating for a Sikh homeland called Khalistan to be carved from India. Mr. Nijjar’s supporters see him as a human-rights activist exercising his right to free speech.

Less than a month after the slaying, Khalistan activists put Mr. Manish’s face on posters at rallies at New Delhi’s Vancouver and Toronto consulates and called for him and other employees of the Indian state to face justice for their alleged roles.

After this targeting, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly vowed to protect Indian diplomats in Canada from any threats. The killing became a full-blown diplomatic row last September after Mr. Trudeau told the House of Commons that Canadian security agencies were probing allegations that the Indian government had played a role in the slaying of Mr. Nijjar.

Man charged in assassination of Hardeep Nijjar came to Canada and enrolled in hospital administrative studies

Last November, U.S. authorities said an Indian government official had directed a plot in the attempted murder of Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Sikh separatist and dual citizen of the United States and Canada.

The RCMP said earlier this month they continue to investigate India’s potential links to Mr. Nijjar’s death after charging four young Indian men with conspiracy to commit murder and murder.

On Tuesday morning in Surrey, Karan Brar, Kamalpreet Singh and Karanpreet Singh walked into courtroom in red prison sweatsuits to appear in person on the charges for the first time. A fourth suspect Amandeep Singh appeared by video link from Ontario, where he is in prison and facing unrelated weapons offences.

Outside the provincial court, several dozen people held up posters with Mr. Manish’s face alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the High Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Verma.

The High Commission, in its statement, said these demonstrators do not represent Canada’s massive Sikh diaspora and characterized activists as “enemies of better Canada-India bilateral relations” whose accusations are made “without any evidence and without facing any social or legal costs.”

Moninder Singh, a spokesperson for the B.C. Gurdwaras Council, said outside court that his community refuses to believe Mr. Manish had no knowledge of the complicated conspiracy to kill his close friend.

He said he was disappointed in local business leaders and at least one politician, who attended the diplomat’s going-away party in Vancouver earlier this month.

Photos posted to the consulate-general’s official social-media accounts on May 2 show Raj Chouhan, an NDP MLA and Speaker of B.C.’s Legislature, standing up from his seat across from the former consul-general to give a speech to the long table of roughly two-dozen attendees. Mr. Chouhan is also shown posing with Mr. Manish.

Mr. Chouhan’s office sent a brief statement Tuesday evening saying he made the decision to attend Mr. Manish’s event independently in his role as Speaker and did not consult with Premier David Eby, whose office confirmed this.

Mr. Chouhan said, like all British Columbians, he is extremely concerned with allegations India was involved with Mr. Nijjar’s murder, he welcomes the arrest of the suspects and looks forward to the court process.

Mr. Singh criticized lawmakers “shaking hands and rubbing elbows” with Indian officials in Canada without calling for greater accountability from the country linked to political killings on foreign soil.

“Any Canadian politician that attends meetings with the Indian consul-general or High Commissioner of India and has not condemned Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s assassination publicly and questioned these individuals is doing a disservice to holding public office in Canada,” he said.

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