A Pakistani court’s decision Wednesday to set free the alleged mastermind of the deadly 2008 Mumbai terror attack left people in India expressing shock and outrage.
Pakistani national Hafiz Saeed, co-founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its offshoot Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), has been under house arrest in Lahore since January and will likely walk free on Friday, two days before the anniversary of the third-deadliest terror assault in India.
Saeed, 68, is accused of masterminding a series of shooting and bomb attacks that began on Nov. 26, 2008 and lasted four days across Mumbai – India’s financial hub – and killed 166 people. He has, however, repeatedly denied involvement in the terror strike.
Saeed’s release was a “slap in the face” of the Indian government and victims of the attack, said Tarun Sethi, 35, who survived the attack.
“After Pakistan dropped terror charges against him in October, it was expected that he would be released soon. But it is still shocking and extremely upsetting to know that he will be a free man come Friday, while we continue to bear the trauma of the attack for the rest of our lives,” Sethi, who was at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai’s main railway station, when gunmen opened fire there during the November 2008 attack, told BenarNews.
On Wednesday, the Federal Review Board rejected a request from the government of Pakistan’s Punjab province to extend Saeed’s detention by three more months, saying there was insufficient evidence to keep holding him, according to the Press Trust of India.
“The government is ordered to release JuD chief Hafiz Saeed if he is not wanted in any other case,” the board said, adding, “[The] concept of justice cannot be brutalized and terrorized in the name of fight against terrorism.”
The board last month had withdrawn terror charges against Saeed, who has been declared a globally designated terrorist by the United Nations, the United States and India, but was kept under house arrest under the Maintenance of Public Order Act. That detention period expires Thursday.
Amita Raichand, an actor who was trapped inside the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel when the attackers stormed the five-star property, said the Indian government should put pressure on Pakistan to ensure that Saeed is not released.
“They [Pakistan] are showing us the finger. We [India] should do something about it. Releasing him just days ahead of 26/11 is like rubbing salt on our wounds,” Raichand told reporters. The 2008 Mumbai attack is commonly referred to in India as “26/11.”
Full story: BenarNews
Prabhat Sharan and Rohit Wadhwaney
Mumbai and New Delhi
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