Pakistani court frees Mumbai terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed (Third Lead, Changing dateline)

June 2nd, 2009 - 3:02 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram Lahore/New Delhi, June 2 (IANS) Citing insufficient evidence, a Pakistani court Tuesday freed from house arrest Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that India has blamed for the 26/11 Mumbai carnage, his lawyer said. India immediately expressed disappointment at the development.
“The court has said the detention of Hafiz Saeed was a violation of the constitution and the law of this country,” counsel A.K. Dogar told reporters after the Lahore High Court delivered its verdict.

“Today’s verdict shows that sovereignty lies in Almighty Allah,” Dogar added.

In New Delhi, India’s Home Minister P. Chidambaram said: “We are unhappy that Pakistan has not shown the degree of seriousness it should to bring to justice the perpetrators of the crime.”

“Saeed is not a terrorist,” a JuD spokesperson told reporters in Lahore, adding that the organisation he headed was not a terror group.

The detailed court verdict was not immediately available.

Government lawyers said they were surprised at the verdict, more so as they had presented evidence linking Saeed’s Jamaat-ud Daawa (JuD) charity, into which the LeT had morphed, with Al Qaeda.

They also indicated that the high court verdict could be appealed in the Supreme Court.

A full bench of the Lahore High Court that heard a habeas corpus petition against the detention of Saeed also ordered the release of his associate, Col. (retd) Nazir Ahmad, Geo TV reported.

The bench, comprising judges Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Hasnat Ahmad Khan and Zubdatul Hussain, passed the order after hearing arguments of the petitioners’ counsel after those of Attorney General Latif Khosa.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, Saeed’s son Hafiz Talha appealed to Jud workers to stay calm and focus on the relief and rehabilitation of the civilians who had fled the military’s anti-Taliban operations in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

On May 30, the Pakistani government had presented evidence to the Lahore High Court linking the JuD to Al Qaida.

Khosa told the court during an in-camera hearing “that JuD is linked to Al-Qaeda, adding one culprit involved in Mumbai attacks is said to have links with JuD”, Geo TV said.

Saeed is the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group that India blames for the Nov 26-29, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. The LeT had morphed into the JuD after the Pakistani government banned it under international pressure in the wake of the Dec 13, 2001 attack on the Indian parliament that New Delhi blamed on the terror group.

Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone gunman captured alive during the Mumbai mayhem, has admitted to being a Pakistani national and to being trained by the LeT for the Mumbai attacks.

Saeed was detained last December after the United Nations declared the JuD as a terrorist group.

He was originally detained for one month and this had been successively extended. On May 5, his detention was extended by 60 days.

After the UN action, the authorities arrested some 40 JuD members and closed dozens of its offices and relief units in the country.

India had in January handed over a dossier to Pakistan linking the LeT and some Pakistani nationals to the Mumbai carnage that claimed the lives of over 170 people, including 26 foreigners.

In February, Pakistan admitted that part of the Mumbai conspiracy was planned in this country and also submitted a list of 30 questions on the Indian dossier of the evidence on Mumbai attack.

India replied to this in March. Pakistan then sought another set of clarifications that India has provided.

Also in December 2008, Pakistani authorities arrested LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi after India handed over to the FBI intercepts of telephone conversations between him and the Mumbai attackers.

The FBI concluded that the intercepts were genuine and that Lakhvi was the handler of the Mumbai attackers.

Four of Lakhvi’s associates - Zarar Shah, Abu al-Qama, Hammad Amin Saddiq and Shahid Jameel Riaz - have also been jailed.

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