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Pak court rejects asylum plea for 5 Americans

December 24, 2009 18:58 IST

A Pakistani court on Friday dismissed a petition seeking asylum in the name of 'holy war' for five American Muslim youths recently arrested in the country for allegedly planning terror attacks, saying that it was not the duty of the judiciary to define 'jihad'.

The Lahore high court dismissed the petition filed by Khalid Khwaja, a former Inter-Services Intelligence official now associated with a rights organisation.

In his petition, Khwaja had contended that the youths came to Pakistan for 'jihad' (holy war) and since this was not a crime, their detention is illegal.

Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khwaja Mohammad Sharif, who heard the petition, observed that it was not the duty of the court to define 'jihad'.

The judge did not comment further and dismissed the petition. Khwaja also asked the court to direct authorities to grant the youths asylum in Pakistan as the US administration might "not spare them". He claimed the accused are innocent of any wrongdoing, either through their actions or intentions.

"They are being suspected of a crime they never committed nor ever intended to commit. In such a case, the US constitution protects all its citizens of wrongful accusations and wrongful imprisonment. We must have faith in our system of laws that they will seek out truth and deliver justice," Khwaja said in his petition.

Pakistani security agencies arrested Waqar Hussain Khan, 22, Ahmed Abdullah Minni, 20, Ramy Zamzam, 22, Iman Hassan Yemer, 17, and Omar Farooq, 24, in Sargodha, some 200 km from Islamabad, on December 9.

Officials said they planned to go to Afghanistan via Pakistan's tribal belt to fight US and NATO forces. The youths also contacted two militant groups Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Jaish-e-Mohammed but were turned away by them. The accused have been booked under the Anti-Terrorism Act and could face life imprisonment if they are convicted.

The Lahore High Court had earlier directed authorities not to deport or hand over the youths to any foreign agency, including the FBI, without its permission.

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