Wed, Oct 18, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Pakistan court orders the release of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba founder from jail


A court in Pakistan yesterday ordered the release from jail of a ex-militant who now heads an Islamic charity that the US says is a terrorist organization.

Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, who founded the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba group in 1990, was taken into custody on Aug. 29 in the eastern city of Lahore. No reason was given for his detention, which took place hours after Saeed was released from a previous two-week stay in jail.

Defense lawyer Nazir Ahmed Ghazi said the Lahore High Court upheld a petition demanding the government immediately release Saeed.

"The petition is accepted and the government is ordered to set him at liberty," Ghazi quoted High Court judge Akhtar Shabbir as saying in a short ruling ordering Saeed's release.

It was not immediately clear when Saeed, who now runs the Jamat-al-Dawat Islamic charity, would be freed. His release order will be delivered to authorities who are holding him at a government facility near Lahore.

On Monday, a government lawyer told the court that Saeed's activities were putting Pakistan's relations with "neighboring countries" at risk.

The lawyer did not elaborate on Saeed's alleged activities nor identify the neighboring countries, but he was apparently referring to India.

New Delhi accuses Pakistan of supporting Islamic militants operating primarily in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Pakistan denies the charge.

Saeed has been detained several times by Pakistani authorities, including for two weeks from Aug. 10 after an alleged plot was foiled in Pakistan and Britain to blow up trans-Atlantic passenger planes.

Officials at the time said Saeed was not connected to the plot, but had been detained to stop him from speaking at a rally that could disrupt public order.

Hours after being released on Aug. 29, police detained Saeed again and authorities ordered him held for 60 days.

Saeed led Lashkar-e-Tayyaba in attacks against Indian forces in the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir before Pakistan banned the group in 2002.

Saeed later formed Jamat-al-Dawat, which says its provides moral support to Islamic militants fighting Indian forces in Kashmir, but denies direct involvement with militant activities.

In April, the US State Department designated Jamat-al-Dawat as being a terrorist organization with links to Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.

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