ISLAMABAD - A court in Pakistan has ordered authorities to release from house arrest an Islamist cleric whom the United States accuses of plotting the 2008 attacks on India’s financial capital of Mumbai.
In January, Hafiz Saeed, head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) organization, was placed under house arrest for 90 days in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan's most populous province of Punjab. Provincial authorities have since extended Saeed’s detention several times.
Saeed's attorneys have been telling the court his detention is unlawful and there is no proof of his involvement in terrorist activities.
The provincial government had asked for another 60-day extension to the cleric’s detention, but, during Wednesday’s court proceedings, judges turned down the request and ordered that Saeed be freed from his house arrest. The court ruled the government could not produce sufficient evidence to justify his detention.
The religious leader is likely to be released later this week, said his counsel.
Washington has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to Saeed’s arrest and conviction. The U.S. has also declared JuD a global terrorist organization, condemning it as a front for the outlawed Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group blamed for carrying out the Mumbai carnage that left 166 people dead.
Despite U.S. sanctions on Saeed, the cleric has been living freely in Pakistan and delivering anti-U.S. speeches. His actions have been a major irritant in Pakistan’s traditionally uneasy relations with the U.S. and a major source of sustained tensions with India.
New Delhi has linked resumption of normal ties with Islamabad to putting Saeed on trial for planning the Mumbai bloodshed. Pakistani officials maintain India has not shared evidence to substantiate the charges.