Pak court accepts Hafiz Saeed's plea to club all six terror financing cases

M Zulqernain

Lahore, Feb 11 (PTI) An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan on Tuesday accepted a plea of Mumbai attack mastermind and Jamat-ud-Dawa chief (JuD) Hafiz Saeed to club all six terror financing cases against him and his aides, and announce the verdict on completion of the trial.

The anti-terrorism court or ATC had indicted Saeed and others on December 11 in terror financing case in day-to-day hearing.

'The anti-terrorism court of Lahore accepted the plea of Saeed and his close aides seeking delay in the verdict in two concluded terror financing cases against them till the trial in other four such pending cases is complete,' a court official told PTI after the hearing.

According to the petition, four other terror financing cases against Saeed, Zafar Iqbal, Yahya Aziz, Abdul Rehman Makki are pending before the same ATC. 'As evidence has been in progress, the court may announce the verdict in six cases including the ones already concluded once the trial is completed,' it said.

The official said the court after accepting Saeed's request, ordered the prosecution to present witnesses in other four cases against the JuD leaders on Wednesday. 'The court will announce the verdict once all witnesses are produced and cross examination is done,' he said.

The deputy prosecutor general opposed Saeed's plea and argued that the trial in two cases against him and others has already been completed and under the law the court may announce the verdict. He requested the court to reject Saeed's plea and announce the verdict.

On last Saturday, Lahore ATC judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta had deferred the verdict against Saeed in two terror financing cases till February 11.

Deputy Prosecutor General Abdul Rauf Wattoo told the Dawn TV that some six cases against Saeed and others are pending before the same court and presentation of evidence in remaining four cases is in progress.

'Hearing of all four remaining cases will be concluded simultaneously at the end of the week and after that the court will issue its verdict,' Wattoo said.

Saeed and other JuD leaders were produced before the ATC in high security.

In the two concluded cases, the prosecution had produced some 20 or so witnesses in the ATC who testified against Saeed and his close aides for their involvement in terror financing.

Saeed has already recorded his statement before the court in two terror financing cases against him in which he pleaded 'not guilty'.

The cases of terror financing have been registered against him in Lahore and Gujranwala cities on the application of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab police.

Cross examination of prosecution witnesses against Saeed and his three close aides by the defense counsel has already been concluded.

The Counter Terrorism Department had registered 23 FIRs against Saeed and his accomplices on the charges of terror financing in different cities of Punjab province and arrested him on July 17. He is lodged at the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore.

The cases were registered against Saeed and others in Lahore, Gujranwala and Multan for collection of funds for terrorism financing through assets/properties made and held in the names of Trusts/Non Profit Organisations including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, Muaz Bin Jabal Trust, etc.

According to the CTD, investigation launched into financing matters of proscribed organisations - JuD and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) - in connection with implementation of UN Sanctions against these Designated Entities and Persons as directed by NSC (National Security Committee) in its meeting of January 1, 2019 chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan for implementing the National Action Plan.

'These suspects made assets from funds of terrorism financing. They held and used these assets to raise more funds for further terrorism financing. Hence, they committed multiple offences of terrorism financing and money laundering under Anti Terrorism Act 1997. They will be prosecuted in ATCs (Anti Terrorism Courts) for commission of these offences,' the CTD said.

Saeed-led JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the LeT which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

The US Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the US, since 2012, has offered a USD 10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice.

The United States has also welcomed Saeed's indictment by a Pakistani court, urging Islamabad to ensure a full prosecution and expeditious trial of the charges against him. PTI MZ ZH ZH