An anti-terrorism court here on Saturday adjourned till December 16 the much-awaited trial of Mumbai attack mastermind and chief of the banned JuD Hafiz Saeed in the terror-financing case due to a country-wide strike by the lawyers.
The anti-terrorism court (ATC) Lahore indicted Saeed and three of his top aides Hafiz Abdul Salam bin Muhammad, Muhammad Ashraf and Zafar Iqbal on terror financing charges on Wednesday, amidst intense international pressure on Pakistan to bring him to justice.
The prosecution which was to present witnesses against Saeed, who is detained at the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore, and others failed to bring them to the court as the lawyers have been on a strike for the last three days protesting against the arrest of their colleagues in a case of hooliganism at a hospital in Lahore.
“Except the arrested lawyers, no other suspect or witness in any other case were presented before the ATC due to the lawyers strike during the last three days,” a court official told PTI on Saturday.
The ATC Lahore adjourned the hearing of the terror financing case against Saeed and others till December 16, the official said.
ATC Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta on Wednesday directed the prosecution to produce the witnesses and adjourned the hearing till Thursday.
The court framed the terror financing charges on the four suspects in their presence. Deputy Prosecutor General Punjab Abdur Rauf had told the court that the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab police had ‘solid evidence’ that Saeed and others were involved in terror financing.
The CTD had registered 23 FIRs against Saeed and his accomplices on the charges of “terror financing” in different cities of Punjab province and arrested Saeed on July 17.
The cases have been registered 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 (NPO) including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust and Muaz Bin Jabal Trust.
According to the CTD, investigation was launched into financing matters of proscribed organisations – Jammat-ud-Dawah (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.
On December 7, the ATC could not indict Saeed and others as one of the co-accused Zafar Iqbal was not produced before the court by the authorities.
Saeed’s indictment comes amidst growing international pressure on Pakistan to rein-in terror groups operating from its soil and bring to justice terror group leaders like Saeed.
In October, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) warned Pakistan that it will be blacklisted if it did not control terror funding by February next, voicing serious concern over the country’s failure to deliver on most of its 27 targets.
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.
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.