Pakistan sentences 3 men over politician's killing in London

MUNIR AHMED

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani court sentenced three men to life in prison on Thursday, after finding them guilty of involvement in the killing of a politician from an ethnic Pakistani party who was stabbed to death in London in 2010.

The court also ruled that the politician's killing abroad was ordered by the chief of the fractious Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a party based in the southern port city of Karachi and the surrounding region. Its roots are traced to Urdu-speaking Muslims who migrated from India when Pakistan was founded in 1947.

The much-awaited verdict was announced in the capital, Islamabad, with the three convicted men — Khalid Shamim, Mohsin Ali and Mauzzam Ali — listening via video link from a jail in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

It was not known when or where the three were arrested but Pakistani authorities had said that Britain's assistance had been critical — an indication that some if not all the suspects may have been detained in Britain and subsequently extradited to Pakistan.

A statement from the Metropolitan Police seemed to confirm that, saying that Britain's assistance in the case came after Pakistan offered guarantees the three would not get the death penalty, which Britain abolished in 1965.

The Islamabad court concluded hearings in the case last month and the convictions and sentences for the three were announced Thursday. The court also issued an arrest warrant for Altaf Hussain, who heads the Muttahida Qaumi Movement of which Farooq was a senior leader, saying Hussain had ordered the killing.

In addition, the court demanded British police arrests Hussain and three other men living in Britain and sought as fugitives for their role in Farooq's death. The three are Iftikhar Hussain, Mohammad Anwar and Kashif Kamran.

Farooq had been living in Britain since 1999, after leaving Pakistan to avoid arrest in connection with several legal cases against him in Karachi. He later sought political asylum there.

Pakistan has suspected that party leader Altaf Hussain — who has been living in self-imposed exile in London since the early 1990s — had a role in Farooq's death and sought to question him for several years.

Hussain, who denies any role in the killing and maintains the late Farooq was like a brother to him, has been known for masterminding the elimination of critics within and outside his party.

The British Embassy in Islamabad welcomed the court's ruling.

“The conviction came about after a ground-breaking piece of collaboration between the UK and Pakistan, which allowed evidence gathered by the Metropolitan Police to be shared with Pakistani prosecutors and be presented as part of their case," it said.

However, it remains unclear if Britain would act on Islamabad's request for the arrests of Hussain and the other three suspects with similar assurances as in the case of the suspects sentenced on Thursday.

British barrister Toby Cadman, who acts as adviser to the Pakistani government, said that Britain has “to be sure beyond doubt that the accused would receive a free, fair and transparent trial and that they would not be subject to the death penalty."

Also on Thursday, a court in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore handed down five-year prison terms on charges of terror financing to two associates of a radical cleric, while two other men were sentenced to a year in prison each on the same charge. The four suspects are all close associates of Hafiz Saaed who is wanted by Washington and New Delhi for his alleged role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 166 people in neighboring India.

The four men are linked to the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a front for Saeed's banned Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group. The development comes months after Saeed was handed down a five-year prison term for terrorism financing.

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Associated Press writer Asim Tanveer in Multan, Pakistan, contributed to this report.