A Pakistani court on Wednesday ordered the release of Hafiz Saeed, the chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and one of the alleged masterminds of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed more than 160 people.
A review Board of the Lahore High Court overruled the government’s request to extend the detention citing that Saeed’s release may trigger international sanctions against Pakistan.
“Concept of justice cannot be brutalised and terrorised in the name of fight against terrorism,” the High Court said in its ruling.
“The review board looking into the case... has refused to extend his house arrest as the government failed to provide any evidence against the charges,” Ahmed Nadeen, a spokesman for the JuD, said.
Saeed, who carries a bounty of $10 million announced by the U.S. for his role in terror activities, has been under house arrest since January this year.
He was greeted by dozens of his followers outside the court after the verdict. “Hafiz Saeed is a free man. God is great,” his social media spokesman tweeted.
Last month, authorities had withdrawn terrorism charges against Saeed and the JuD, a front of the terror organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba, and kept him in detention under the Maintenance of Public Order Act, paving the way for his release.
Saeed’s detention was extended four times since January when the government cracked down on the JuD and its charity arm Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation.
Saeed challenged his detention in the Lahore High Court in February. Lawyer A.K. Dogar had urged the court to order the release of Saeed and his four aides as no formal charges had been filed against them after months of detention.
The Kashmir factor
Analyst and retired Pakistani general Talat Masood told AFP that Saeed is given special treatment by the government “because they think that his organisation was supportive in Kashmir”.
Saeed said later in a video message that he was detained because of his association with Kashmir.
“It’s because of Kashmir that India is after me, but all her efforts have been in vain and Allah has set me free,” he said in the video released by his party’s media team. “This is victory of Pakistan’s freedom and God willing Kashmir will also be freed because I’m fighting Kashmir’s case,” Saeed added.
Following a brief period of house arrest in 2008, Saeed led a high-profile public life and regularly delivered fiery anti-India speeches till January this year.
(With AFP inputs)