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Pak court orders release of Lashkar chief

August 28, 2006 13:44 IST
A Pakistani court on Monday ordered the release of Hafeez Muhammad Saeed, founder leader of banned Lashkar-e-Tayiba, on the ground the government has failed to provide strong reasons for his arrest. The Lahore High Court held that the government has failed to provide strong reasons for his arrest and his detention was based on speculation that he could disturb peace, Saeed's lawyer Nazir Ahmad Ghazi told PTI from Lahore.

Judge Akhtar Shabbir quashed the detention order saying the government has failed to provide any proof or strong reasons for his detention. The court accepted the defence counsel's argument that Saeed has never indulged in activities to disturb peace and the government has failed to provide proof, he said.

In view of the court's order, the government has to release him, Ghazi said adding that "he is free from this minute". Saeed, who currently heads a NGO called Jamat-ud-Dawa was arrested on August 10 under the maintenance of public order on the ground that he was likely to disturb peace during his planned rally coinciding with Pakistan's independence day on August 14. Initially he was held under house detention and later shifted to a guesthouse reportedly in Sheikhapura.

Saeed's detention was challenged through a writ petition by his wife. His sudden detention sparked off speculation that he may have been arrested in view of persistent allegations by India that he and the LeT though banned by Pakistan were responsible for the Mumbai blasts.

His arrest also coincided with the unravelling of the plot to blow up US-bound airlines from UK and some reports linking JUD of diverting the funds sent by Muslim charity groups for earthquake relief to execute the plot to blow up planes. The Pakistan Foreign Office, however, absolved Saeed and his group from having links with any terrorist activities and said his detention was aimed at preventing any efforts to cause disturbance in Pakistan.

For the past few days reports also said that Saeed has been questioned by British and American intelligence agents. JUD, which contested his detention, however, denied the reports. "The question of foreign intelligence agents questioning Saeed does not arise as he is not linked to either Mumbai blasts or the plot to blow up planes and Pakistan government has already denied this," JUD spokesman Yahya Mujhid said.

Saeed would be released on Monday from Shepkhapura guest house as the court has held that his detention was illegal, Mujahid added.

K J M Varma in Islamabad
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