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Pakistani Court: Hardline Cleric to Remain Free

Pakistan's Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot detain a hard-line Islamic cleric who India accuses of planning the deadly 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

The high court on Tuesday rejected a government appeal and upheld a lower court ruling that there is not enough evidence to imprison Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.

Saeed is the alleged founder of the banned Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar e-Taiba, which India blames for the three-day siege in India's financial hub that killed 166 people. The attack strained relations between India and Pakistan.

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao expressed disappointment at Tuesday's ruling. She said India regards Saeed as one of the masterminds of the Mumbai attacks.

Pakistani authorities placed Saeed under house arrest in December 2008 but he was released last June after a court determined there was not enough evidence against him.

The cleric also heads an Islamic charity, Jammat-ud-Dawa. A spokesman for the charity said Tuesday's court decision showed that Jammat-ud-Dawa and its chief have no ties to terrorism.

During the 2008 Mumbai attacks, nine of the 10 attackers were killed. India has convicted and sentenced to death the lone surviving gunman.

Pakistan has acknowledged that the attacks were partially planned on its soil. It has put seven suspects on trial on charges they assisted in the Mumbai siege.

India's foreign secretary said Tuesday that Pakistan should take "meaningful action" against Saeed to fulfill its pledge not to harbor militants.

On Monday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged efforts to normalize relations with longtime rival Pakistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.