Lahore – A Pakistani court on Wednesday ordered the release from house arrest of an Islamist leader accused by the U.S. and India of masterminding attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008.
No fewer than 166 persons were killed in the attack, a prosecutor said.
Hafiz Saeed was put under house arrest in January after years of living freely in Pakistan, one of the sore points in its fraying relationship with the U.S.
His freedom had also infuriated Pakistan’s arch-foe, India.
The government of Pakistan’s Punjab province had asked for a 60-day extension to Saeed’s detention but the request was turned down by the court, prosecutor Sattar Sahil said.
“His previous detention for 30 days is over which means he would be released tomorrow,” said Sahil.
Saeed has repeatedly denied involvement in the Mumbai attacks when 10 gunmen hit targets in India’s largest city, including two luxury hotels, a Jewish centre and a train station in a rampage that lasted several days.
The violence brought nuclear-armed neighbours Pakistan and India to the brink of war.
The U.S. had offered a $10 million bounty for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Saeed, who heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD).
Members say the Jamaat-ud-Dawa is a charity but the U.S. says it is a front for the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
“The review board of the Lahore High Court asked the Punjab government to produce evidence against Hafiz Saeed for keeping him detained but the government failed,” Saeed’s lawyer A. K. Dogar said.
“The court today said that there is nothing against Saeed, therefore, he should be released,” he added.
A spokesman for India’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
India accused Pakistan of sponsoring the attacks through the LeT, which Saeed founded in the 1990s.
Pakistan has denied any state involvement in the attack. It placed the LeT on a list of banned organisations in 2002.
“The leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Hafiz Saeed’s (may God protect him) internment is over,” Nadeem Awan, a media manager for JuD, wrote on Facebook after the court order.
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