Pakistan court orders release of Mumbai attacks plotter

Islamabad High Court declares detention of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi under Maintenance of Public Order void.

    Lakhvi is accused of being the mastermind of the 2008 gun and bomb attacks in Mumbai which claimed the lives of 166 people [AFP]
    Lakhvi is accused of being the mastermind of the 2008 gun and bomb attacks in Mumbai which claimed the lives of 166 people [AFP]

    Islamabad, PAKISTAN - A Pakistani court has declared the continued detention of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the operational chief of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, void.

    The Islamabad High Court accepted an appeal from Lakhvi that challenged his detention under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Act during a hearing on Friday.

    It is unclear if Lakhvi, who has been in prison since 2009, will be released, as the government has challenged similar judgments in the past. He is currently in custody at Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail.

    The Indian External Affairs Ministry summoned Pakistan's High Commissioner in New Delhi Abdul Basit following the court order to "convey its outrage" at the decision, according to a statement.

    "This goes against Pakistan's professed commitment to combat terrorism, including its recently stated policy of not differentiating amongst terrorists. If such a person, who is also a designated international terrorist by the United Nations, is released it will pose a threat that cannot be ignored," the statement continued.

    Lakhvi is accused of being the mastermind of the 2008 gun and bomb attacks in Mumbai which claimed the lives of 166 people and left more than 300 injured. The assault, which lasted more than 60 hours, was one of the worst attacks in India’s history, and badly affected India-Pakistan relations.

    While no group claimed responsibility in the aftermath, India blamed it on the banned LeT, and in 2009 Pakistan responded by charging Lakhvi and others with responsibility.

    On December 18, an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi granted Lakhvi bail in a case where he was named as the "mastermind" of the Mumbai attacks.

    The government, however, challenged the court's decision to grant bail, and held Lakhvi under the MPO. When Lakhvi challenged his detention under that law, which allows authorities to hold suspects for up to 90 days without a warrant, the Supreme Court sided with the government in maintaining his detention, saying the Islamabad High Court had rushed the decision to release Lakhvi.

    On Friday, the High Court, after holding hearings on the matter, returned the same verdict. The government continues to challenge the original decision to grant Lakhvi bail, in a petition whose hearings are pending before the same court. In the petition, the Federal Investigation Agency’s special prosecutor states that prosecutors and witnesses have been threatened in connection with the case, Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported.

    Lakhvi had also been granted bail on January 9 in another case pertaining to the 2009 kidnapping of Anwer Khan, an Afghan citizen, from a suburb of Islamabad.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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