A man accused in an Indian newspaper report of running a pro-Khalistan "terror camp" east of Vancouver has denied the allegation, writing a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in which he says he has "never believed in, supported or been involved in any violent activity."
The Times of India reported on Sunday that a man who has been living in Surrey for two decades is the operational head of a group known as the Khalistan Terror Force. The report said the group's members have been operating out of a camp near the city of Mission and plan to carry out attacks in India. It also said Indian officials plan to seek the leader's extradition, and believe he was involved in a 2007 attack on a cinema that killed six people.
Hardeep Nijjar, the man named in the story, released a letter Wednesday evening in which he said his campaign for Sikh rights has made him "a target." He confirmed in a brief telephone interview that he wrote the letter but otherwise declined to comment.
Mr. Nijjar said he is a Canadian citizen who operates a small plumbing business to support his two children, wife and parents. He said he supports the right of Sikhs to self-determination through a future referendum. The pro-Khalistan movement advocates for an independent Sikh homeland in India.
He said he also participated in a campaign to collect signatures to have anti-Sikh violence in India that occurred in 1984 recognized as a genocide, adding that he collected more than 20,000 signatures in 2012-13.
Mr. Nijjar said his family members have also been harassed by police in India, and that his father and brother were at one point detained by police and told that Mr. Nijjar should cease his campaign.
He asked Mr. Trudeau to dispel the allegations against him. "The Indian government's allegations against me of promoting terrorism are factually baseless and fabricated," he wrote.
Gurpatwant Pannun, Mr. Nijjar's New York-based lawyer, described the allegation as a "smear campaign."
Mr. Pannun said in an interview that his next step will be to challenge a notice issued by Interpol that says Mr. Nijjar is wanted by Indian authorities. The notice, which is posted on Interpol's website, cites terrorism and explosives charges. Mr. Pannun denied any wrongdoing by his client.
The federal government has said little on the Times of India report.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has said he does not comment on operational issues. The RCMP have said they monitor all potential threats, but are "not in a position to speak to specific allegations, threats or ongoing investigations."