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Amid applause, Lahore court frees Lashkar chief

June 2, 2009 14:43 IST

Image: Police escort Hafiz Saeed (in white cap), the head of the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa and founder of Lashkar-e-Tayiba, as he leaves the Lahore court
Photographs: Mohsin Raza/Reuters

A Pakistani court on Tuesday freed outlawed Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and his close aide Col (retired) Nazir Ahmed nearly six months after they were detained following the Mumbai terror attacks.

A three-member bench of the Lahore High Court freed Saeed and Ahmed after hearing arguments by the JuD chief's counsel A K Dogar, who claimed the detention of the two men violated Pakistan's constitution and laws.

Detailed order expected later

Image: Hafiz Saeed outside Lahore court
Photographs: Mohsin Raza/Reuters

The three-judge bench, hearing the case, said it will give a detailed order later. Dogar, who addressed the bench for about 45 minutes, said the UN Security Council had only sought a freeze on the JuD's assets and a travel ban on its leaders and the world body had not demanded the arrest of JuD leaders. He claimed it was not binding under Pakistani laws to implement UN Security Council resolutions.  Saeed was put under house arrest on December 11 last year after the UN Security Council banned the Jamaat, declaring it a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is blamed by India for November 26 Mumbai terror attacks that killed over 160 people.

Saeed was not present in the court today. The Deputy Attorney General of the federal government and the Advocate General of Punjab [Images] province rebutted Dogar's arguments. The Advocate General said it was binding on Pakistan to implement Security Council resolutions as the country was a signatory to the UN Charter.

After hearing both sides, the bench issued a brief order for the release of Saeed and Ahmed. A detailed order is expected to be issued by the High Court later.

JuD activists hail the verdict

Image: A file photograph of Hafiz Saeed at a protest rally in Karachi on September 7, 2008, 'to condemn atrocities in India-controlled Kashmir'
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters

JuD activists who gathered at the court began shouting slogans in support of Saeed on hearing the verdict.

A JuD spokesman hailed the court's verdict and said the organisation will continue its relief activities.

The court's order was a 'certificate' that the JuD was not involved in terrorism and the government had been unable to prove Saeed's involvement in such activities, the spokesman said. Dogar, who shouted slogans like "Allah-o-Akbar (God is great)" along with Saeed's supporters after emerging from the court, said the JuD chief had been detained on December 11 last year without any valid grounds or reasons.

Five LeT activists facing trial in Pak

Image: A file photograph of Hafiz Saeed
Photographs: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

Saeed's house arrest was subsequently extended for 'some vague' reasons, he said. He questioned why the Pakistan government had implemented the UN Security Council's resolution against the JuD when India had not acted on 26 resolutions on the Kashmir issue.

During an earlier hearing of Saeed's petition challenging his detention, Pakistan's Attorney General Latif Khosa had told the court that the government had evidence that showed the JuD's 'prima facie links' with Al Qaida.

This was the first time that Pakistan admitted that JuD has links with Al Qaida. Saeed and Ahmed had challenged their detention through a petition in the High Court.

Saeed and several other JuD leaders were placed under house arrest in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks but most of them were subsequently freed.

A judicial review board of the Lahore High Court had recently extended the detention of Saeed, also the founder of the Lashker-e-Tayiba, and Ahmed by two months till July 8. Five LeT activists, including Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, are currently being tried by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi for alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks.