Pakistani judge orders release of radical cleric linked to India attacks

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Pakistani court on Tuesday ordered the release of a firebrand Islamic cleric with alleged links to attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai last year, sparking an angry rebuke from Indian officials that Pakistan is not committed to meting out justice for militants.

Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, head of a charity that international organizations have said is tied to the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, had been held under house arrest since Dec. 11, though he had not been publicly charged or indicted. Lashkar-e-Taiba has been accused by Indian officials of engineering and carrying out the attacks on Mumbai that killed 166 people in November.

The United Nations regards Saeed's charity, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, as a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was formed 20 years ago to fight Indian rule in the Himalayan region of Kashmir. Saeed founded Lashkar-e-Taiba in 1990 with what has been widely reported as support from Pakistan's intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence.

The court ruling could worsen relations between Pakistan and India, nuclear armed countries that regard each other as archenemies and have fought three wars in more than a half-century.

"We are unhappy that Pakistan has not shown the degree of seriousness and commitment it should have to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks," Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram said Tuesday.

The three-judge panel that issued the ruling in the city of Lahore did not explain its decision. Saeed's lawyer, A.K. Dogar, argued that there were no legal grounds to support Saeed's house arrest and that his detention was a violation of human rights.

Pakistani judge orders release of radical cleric linked to India attacks 06/02/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 11:06pm]

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