As he travelled home from his studio on the evening of December 23, 2020, the notable Auckland radio host Harnek Singh, noted for his global following of over 500,000 YouTube subscribers, was unaware of the peril lying ahead. Recent remarks he had made on air had unknowingly earned him a death sentence — a violent execution order issued from a New Zealand-based dissenter.
Unbeknownst to Harnek, six potential executioners followed close behind him in three separate vehicles, prepared to carry out the fatal command. These details emerged from the situation painted by the prosecution as the trial of four individuals, accused of attempted murder, and a fifth man, accused of acting as an accessory to murder, commenced.
Harnek Singh, a host for Radio Virsa and affectionately known as “Nekki” by his friends, considers himself fortunate to have survived the brutal attack which left him with multiple stab wounds and a nearly severed arm. The assault took place close to his home in Wattle Downs, South Auckland, and resulted from a collision with a van near his driveway.
Crown prosecutor Luke Radich described the injuries to the jury as “horrific” and commented that after committing the gruesome act, the attackers left assuming that Singh was dead. However, he survived the brutal assault.
The prosecution has identified eight individuals to have allegedly conspired in the attack, out of which three have pleaded guilty. One of those who pleaded guilty is expected to testify against his former co-defendants throughout the month-long trial at the High Court in Auckland.
Remaining defendants include Jobanpreet Singh who is accused of participating in the attack, Gurbinder Singh and Jagraj Singh who allegedly tailed Harnek Singh home, providing support to the attackers, and Sukhpreet Singh who, charged with accessory after the fact, allegedly harboured two of the attackers in his home after the incident. The oldest defendant, who remains anonymous and is suspected to have plotted the entire attack, along with the others, have denied all charges.
All parties involved in this alarming incident are Sikh, a religion with over 30 million practitioners around the globe and approximately 45,000 followers in New Zealand.
Defence lawyer Dale Dufty, representing the unnamed defendant, admitted that his client may have derived some satisfaction from the incident, but firmly denied his involvement in planning or ordering the attack. Drawing a line through the religious and cultural backdrop of the Sikh community, Dufty described Singh as a professional agitator, often courting dispute with orthodox community members. He highlighted Singh’s critical opinion on a set of contentious laws passed by the Indian parliament concerning Punjab farmers, which had amplified dissent within the Sikh community.
The prosecution refrained from exploring the political undercurrents of the incident but noted that Singh had paid a high price for his freedom of expression. The incident, according to Dufty, was executed by enraged young men harboring a grudge against Singh.
The trial remains in session, scheduled to continue before Justice Mark Woolford and the jury.