Pakistan court frees Islamist tied to Mumbai terror attack

by WorldTribune Staff, November 24, 2017

The United States condemned the Nov. 22 decision of a Pakistani court to release an Islamist cleric accused of masterminding the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai which killed 166 people.

Lahore High Court’s judicial review body rejected a government request to continue the detention of 67-year-old Hafiz Saeed, who is designated a terrorist by the UN and has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head.

Hafiz Saeed, center, waves to supporters as he walks out of court in Lahore, Pakistan on Nov. 22. / Reuters

“The United States is deeply concerned that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) leader Hafiz Saeed has been released from house arrest in Pakistan,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement released on Nov. 24.

“LeT is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks, including a number of American citizens. The Pakistani government should make sure that he is arrested and charged for his crimes.”

With his release, Saeed is expected to play a leading role in Pakistan’s general election in 2018. During his period of house arrest, he initiated the launch of a new political party, the Milli Muslim League (MML), which is set to contest several parliamentary seats in the election.

Saeed, who is considered a possible candidate for public office but has not indicated he will run, thanked the judges of Lahore’s high court in a video statement.

“The lawyers of the court supported me tremendously and I am so thankful to God for that,” he said. “This is a great step for freedom for Pakistan.”

Saeed’s lawyer, A.K Dogar, said his client is now free, at least within Pakistan.

“There is no restriction at all on Hafiz Saeed now,” Dogar said. “The three members [Judges] review board on maintenance of public order examined the detention and found the government had not provided any tangible evidence to putting Saeed under further house arrest”.

India has continued to press for Saeed to be handed over to face trial for the Mumbai terror attacks, in which LeT gunmen attacked luxury hotels, a Jewish center and a railway station in India’s biggest city and brought the nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan to the brink of war.

U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed for a crackdown on Pakistani militants plotting attacks on Afghanistan and India.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations,” Trump said in August, declaring that Pakistan would have “much to lose” if it continued to harbor terrorists.

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