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Lashkar-e-Tayiba chief produced before Lahore High Court

Last updated on: March 09, 2009 17:40 IST

Nearly three months after his house arrest, Lashkar-e-Tayiba founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed was produced before a court in Lahore on Monday for the first time in connection with the Mumbai attacks by Pakistani authorities which sought extension of his detention.

Amid tight security, 59-year-old Saeed, also the chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawah, and five other detained leaders of the banned terrorist group were produced before a judicial review board of the Lahore High Court, comprising three judges.

The court reserved its decision on the extension sought by the Pakistani authorities of their house arrest. Saeed was placed under house arrest on December 12 last year and the five other JuD leaders--Haji Amir Hamza, Colonel Nazir Ahmed (retired), Qazi Kashif Niaz, Mufti Abdul Rehman and Qari Yasin Baloch -- were detained at around the same time. They were all placed under house arrest under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance, which allows a person to be held for up to 90 days. The Home Department of Punjab province sought an extension of their house arrest, which is set to expire on March 11.

With the terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket squad in the heart of the city a week back fresh in their minds, security personnel left nothing to chance. The JuD leaders were ferried to the court in armoured vehicles. Security personnel in plain clothes formed a ring around the courtroom in which the JuD operatives were presented before the review board.

Heavily armed policemen were deployed outside the court and around the entire building. Police also reportedly removed some JuD activists, who had gathered outside the court. Saeed's lawyer Zafar Iqbal told reporters that authorities had sought the extension of the house arrest without giving any valid reasons for the detention of the JuD leaders. The request for extending their detention was "based on foreign media reports," he claimed.

Iqbal said the Pakistani authorities had not even received India's response to their 30 questions seeking more information on the Mumbai attacks. He claimed the authorities had no grounds for holding the JuD leaders. He also said the review board had reserved its decision after hearing the detainees and was expected to issue its order soon.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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