The chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Hafiz Saeed, is expected to walk free on November 24 after a Pakistani court ordered his release from house arrest on Wednesday.
The JuD chief, who carries a $10 million reward by US for any information leading to his arrest and conviction, has been under house arrest since January 2017.
“The US is aware of media reports that Pakistan (court) ordered release of Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed from house arrest,” a State Department spokesperson told PTI.
The Punjab government in Pakistan had asked for a three-month extension to Saeed’s detention but the request was turned down by the court, prosecutor Sattar Sahil told Reuters. “His previous detention for 30 days is over, which means he would be released tomorrow,” he said on Wednesday.
Saeed is a wanted terrorist in India for his involvement in the Mumbai attacks in which 10 gunmen attacked targets in Mumbai, including two luxury hotels, a Jewish centre and a train station in a rampage that lasted several days.
The members of Jamaat-ud-Dawa claim that the group is a charity but the United States says it is a front for the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group.
“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 AK Dogar told Reuters. “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.
“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.
Later, a video message was released by Saeed’s party members where he could be heard saying that he was detained because of his association with Kashmir.
“It’s because of Kashmir that India is after me, but all her efforts have been in vain and Allah has set me free,” he said in the video released by his party’s media team. “This is victory of Pakistan’s freedom and God willing Kashmir will also be freed because I’m fighting Kashmir’s case,” Saeed added.
Saeed’s freedom comes barely four days ahead of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai which left at least 166 people dead.