ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN —
The United States has denounced the decision in Pakistan to free the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.
State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said Friday the U.S. is "gravely concerned" by a court's granting of bail to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who left custody just hours earlier.
Lakhvi walked out of court Friday amid myriad clicks of cameras and shouts by photographers for people to move out of their way.
He was flanked by police as his supporters waited anxiously outside.
Lakhvi raised his hand in triumph and they shouted.
Facing strong criticism, Pakistan's government detained Lakhvi using the Maintenance of Public Order Act and has since issued several such orders -- only to have them struck down by Pakistani courts.
The fact that he was granted bail just two days after a devastating attack on a school in Peshawar, in which 132 children were killed, caused international outrage.
The government was forced to detain him under a Maintenance of Public order, which implied that he could be dangerous to the law and order situation.
Since then, the government has issued several such orders against him only to have them struck down by the courts one by one.
Lakhvi’s lawyer, Rizwan Abbasi, said there was insufficient evidence to hold his client any further.
“Government is unable to produce any plausible substance so far as MPO is concerned," said Abbasi. "How activities of someone can be declared prejudicial to the public peace when he is not public, he is in jail.”
India reacted strongly to Lakhvi’s release. Indian high commissioner told the foreign secretary of Pakistan that this was a “most negative development in bilateral ties.”
Earlier, Indian home minister also had called the release unfortunate. In addition, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said he was disappointed with this development.
A statement by Pakistan’s ministry of external affairs said the “inordinate delay in extending cooperation by India complicated the case and weakened the prosecution.”
Lakhvi had been in jail since 2009, when he was first arrested for his alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks. He is suspected to be the operations manager of Lashkar e Taiba, the banned outfit that is blamed for the carnage. Six others remain in jail.
Some material for this report came from Reuters