Pakistan’s Red Mosque cleric freed (Lead)April 16th, 2009 - 11:43 pm ICT by IANS
Islamabad, April 16 (DPA) Pakistani authorities Thursday freed Maulana Abdul Aziz, the hard-line cleric of Islamabad’s Red Mosque, a day after the Supreme Court granted him bail.
Deputy Commissioner of Islamabad Asadullah Faiz told DPA that the police had been withdrawn from Aziz’s residence in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
“He is a free man now, and he can go wherever he wants,” he added.
Hundreds of Aziz’s followers gathered outside his residence, where he had been in detention, as the hard-line cleric drove away in a vehicle to an undisclosed location.
Aziz was arrested trying to escape disguised as a woman during a stand-off in July 2007 between security forces and his armed followers entrenched in the Red Mosque and adjoining girls’ seminary.
The conflict ended with a military commando operation that left more than 100 people dead, according to official claims.
Militant Muslims claim that more than 3,000 female students also died in the operation. The government denied this, but the military action sparked revenge suicide attacks across the country.
Pakistani authorities later filed 27 criminal cases against Aziz that included conspiracy to murder and anti-state activities. However, during the court proceedings, Aziz was granted bail in 25 cases and charges were dropped in one case.
In the last case, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court Wednesday ordered the cleric’s release, observing there was no sufficient material available on record against Aziz. “Therefore, he deserved to be granted bail,” said the court order.
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Tags: abdul aziz, cleric, commando operation, court proceedings, deputy commissioner, dpa, faiz, female students, followers, free man, garrison city, military action, muslims, pakistani authorities, rawalpindi, red mosque, security forces, seminary, suicide attacks, undisclosed location