26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed to walk free? Pakistan court orders release

"The government is ordered to release JuD chief Hafiz Saeed if he is not wanted in any other case", said the review board comprising judges of the Lahore High Court.

Hafiz Saeed has been under house arrest since January this year and was detained after huge pressure on the federal government by the United States (USA) and severe reservations by India.

Saeed's four aides were set free in the last week of October.

Saeed has denied involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, during which a 10-member LeT team killed 166 people when they targeted two hotels, a Jewish centre and a railway station. Subsequently, his house arrest had been extended several times.

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Prosecutor Sattar Sahil told Reuters on November 22 that Hafiz Saeed is expected to be released on November 23 after the Lahore court rejected the provincial government's request for a 60-day extension to his detention. The order rubs salt on the wounds of those who lost loved ones in the 26/11 assault and turns the spotlight on Saeed's ability to evade serious action given his proximity to the Pakistani military which sees him as a prized "strategic" asset. The JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attack. "It can not face global backlash in the event of releasing the JuD chief", the official source told PTI.

"We plead the board not to order the release of Saeed as Pakistan may face worldwide sanctions", an official of the department had requested. However, the court refused the plea and said Saeed will be released as per the earlier sentence. The court ruled the government could not produce sufficient evidence to justify his detention.

Hafiz Saeed along with his four aids - Abdullah Ubaid, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdul Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Hussain - were taken into custody by the Punjab government on January 31 this year.

According to the law, the government can detain an individual for up to three months under different charges but an extension in the detention requires approval from a judicial review board. In 2012, the USA had announced a $10-million reward for information leading to Saeed's arrest and conviction.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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