Pakistani court: Government must produce evidence or Hafiz Saeed goes free

A.K. Dogar, center, defense counsel of Hafiz Saeed, comes out of the Supreme Court building in Islamabad in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 14 October 2017

Pakistani court: Government must produce evidence or Hafiz Saeed goes free

ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court on Friday postponed legal proceedings against the alleged mastermind of the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai in which more than 160 people died.
Hafiz Saeed is the chief of Jama’at-ud-Da’wah (JuD), a charity which many believe is a front for the militant group of which Saeed is a co-founder, Lashkar-e-Taiba — designated as a terrorist organization by the UN, the EU and several countries.
Saeed and four aides were placed under house arrest in Pakistan in January under the Anti-Terrorism Act, but no formal charges have yet been filed against him. The judge accepted the Interior Ministry’s request to present its evidence against Saeed to him privately in his chambers due to the sensitivity of the case.
Saeed’s defense counsel, A.K. Dogar, has challenged his client’s detention and claims that Saeed and his aides were arrested because of pressure from India and the US — which has offered a $10 million bounty for Saeed’s arrest. Saeed tops India’s most-wanted list as he is accused of involvement in a series of attacks on Indian soil dating back to 2001. Saeed denies the allegations.
“Indian pressure has led the government to keep Hafiz Saeed detained,” a JuD spokesman told Arab News. “Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had been trying to please Indian Prime Minister Modi through gestures of friendship and had made promises to keep this friendship intact. Instead of countering Indian propaganda — which the Americans are also part of — Pakistan’s foreign minister has conceded to their demands, leaving the Pakistani people unprotected and arresting them.”
The spokesman claimed that India’s pursuit of punitive measures against Saeed is not connected to terrorist attacks, but to JuD’s support of Kashmiri independence.
“Indians hate JuD because of its undeterred support for the Kashmiri cause,” he said. “We have brought evidence of Indian atrocities committed against the people of Kashmir seeking self-determination, and this aggravates them.”
On Tuesday, Dogar reportedly described Saeed’s detention as “illegal and a violation of basic rights” and asked the court to declare the detention null and void.
The court warned that Saeed, whose initial 90-day sentence has already been extended twice, would be freed if the government failed to submit evidence to legally keep him detained.
“No citizen can be detained for an extended period on the basis of merely press clippings,” Justice Saeed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi said, reportedly angered by the absence of Interior Ministry officials at the hearing, according to local news reports. He added that the “conduct of the government” suggested there was “no substantial evidence against the petitioners.”
Naqvi gave the secretary of the interior until next week to submit evidence.
JuD last month formed the Milli Muslim League (MML) in a bid to enter mainstream politics. They nominated a candidate for the Lahore constituency seat left vacant by the judicial ouster of Nawaz Sharif on July 28. The MML candidate failed to win, but did register more votes than two of Pakistan’s largest political parties in the election.
Pakistan’s election commission has rejected the party’s registration, but the MML is still expected to participate in by-elections in Peshawar on Oct. 26.
The party’s formation is partly the result of new attempts by the government to integrate groups with militant links into the country’s political sphere. At a press briefing in Islamabad last week, Pakistan Armed Forces spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor explained that this process had already started, in reference to the MML.
“The government has started some discussion over mainstreaming them, so that they can make a constructive contribution,” he said.


Two accomplices in Kenya’s Westgate attack jailed for 33 and 18 years

Updated 30 October 2020

Two accomplices in Kenya’s Westgate attack jailed for 33 and 18 years

  • Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa, both 31, were found guilty on October 7 of conspiring with and supporting the four assailants
  • The convicted men were in regular contact with the attackers who at midday on September 21, 2013, stormed the upscale Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital

NAIROBI: A Kenyan court Friday handed prison terms of 33 and 18 years respectively to two men accused of conspiring with the Al-Shabab extremists who attacked Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013, killing 67 people.

Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa, both 31, were found guilty on October 7 of conspiring with and supporting the four assailants from the Somalia-based extremist group who died in what was then Kenya’s worst terrorist attack in 15 years.

The accused asked the judge for leniency, saying they had already served seven years behind bars and had family to care for.

“Despite mitigation by their defense lawyers on their innocence, the offense committed was serious, devastating, destructive, that called for a punishment by the court,” Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi told a Nairobi courtroom.

He sentenced the men to 18 years for conspiracy and 18 for supporting extremists, but ordered they serve both terms together. Abdi was also given an additional 15 years for two counts of possessing extremist propaganda material on his laptop.

He will serve 26 years and Mustafa 11, taking into account their pre-trial detention.

The convicted men were in regular contact with the attackers who at midday on September 21, 2013, stormed the upscale Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital and began throwing grenades and firing indiscriminately on shoppers and business owners.

A four-day siege ensued — much of it broadcast live on television — during which Kenyan security forces tried to flush out the gunmen and take back the high-end retail complex.

Although there was no specific evidence Abdi and Mustafa had provided material help, the court was satisfied their communication with the attackers amounted to supporting the armed rampage, and justified the guilty verdict for conspiracy.

The marathon trial began in January 2014. A third accused was acquitted of all charges.
The Westgate attack was claimed by Al-Shabab in retaliation for Kenya intervening military over the border in Somalia, where the extremist group was waging a bloody insurgency against the fragile central government.

Kenya is a major contributor of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which in 2011 drove Al-Shabab out of Mogadishu and other urban strongholds after a months-long offensive.

In a car the attackers drove to Westgate, police found evidence of newly-activated SIM cards used by the gunmen. Their communications were traced, including calls to Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa.

A fourth defendant, Adan Mohammed Abdikadir, was acquitted in early 2019 for lack of evidence.

The Westgate attack was the deadliest incident of violent extremism on Kenyan soil since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, which killed 213 people.

But since the assault on the shopping complex, Al-Shabab has perpetrated further atrocities in Kenya against civilian targets.

In April 2015, gunmen entered Garissa University and killed 148 people, almost all of them students. Many were shot point blank after being identified as Christians.

In January 2019, the militants struck Nairobi again, hitting the Dusit Hotel and surrounding offices and killing 21 people.

Al-Shabab warned in a January statement that Kenya “will never be safe” as long as its troops were stationed in Somalia, and threatened further attacks on tourists and US interests.

That same month, Al-Shabab attacked a US military base in northeast Kenya in a cross-border raid, killing three Americans and destroying a number of aircraft.