–ATC sentences JuD chief to five and a half years imprisonment, Rs15,000 fine in each case
–Judge orders govt to keep proscribed outfit’s chief in custody ‘until further orders’
LAHORE: An anti-terrorism court here on Wednesday found proscribed religious outfit Jamaatud Dawa’s (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed guilty in two terror-financing cases and handed him five and a half years and a fine of Rs15,000 in each case, ahead of a crucial meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
ATC Judge Arshad Hussain Bhatta further announced that the sentences of both cases will run concurrently. The court also granted him the benefit of Section 382-B of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) which states: “The length of any sentence of imprisonment imposed upon an accused person in respect of any offense shall be treated as reduced by any period during which he was detained in custody for such offense”.
Saeed was convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Act Section 11-F(2) — pertaining to membership, support and meetings relating to a proscribed organisation — and 11-N [punishment under Sections 11-H (fund-raising) to 11-K (money laundering)].
Malik Zafar Iqbal, the secretary of Al-Anfaal Trust, has also been convicted in the same cases and has been awarded similar punishment.
After delivering the verdict, the court directed authorities to keep Hafiz Saeed, who was present in court, under custody until further orders.
The JuD leader was found guilty of “being part of a banned terrorist outfit” and for “having illegal property”, his lawyer Imran Gill said.
The court had reserved its verdicts in the two cases on February 6. Saeed is nominated in multiple cases pertaining to money laundering, terror financing and land grabbing.
It merits a mention here that the decision comes ahead of a meeting of the Plenary Group of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which is scheduled to held on Feb 16 in Paris.
Following the announcement, the court directed authorities to keep Saeed under custody until further orders.
The court had reserved its verdicts in the two cases on Feb 6. Saeed is nominated in multiple cases pertaining to money laundering, terror financing and land grabbing.
Cases pertaining to terror financing and money laundering were filed against Saeed by the Counter-Terrorism Department’s (CTD) Lahore and Gujranwala chapters. The case filed by CTD’s Gujranwala chapter was initially being heard in a Gujranwala ATC, but in September last year, it was shifted to Lahore on the directions of the Lahore High Court (LHC).
During the trial of both cases, the court recorded the statements of 23 witnesses.
The JuD chief was arrested by CTD in July last year, while he was traveling from Lahore to Gujranwala. Prior to his arrest, 23 FIRs [First Information Report] had been registered against JuD leaders, including Saeed and JuD Naib Emir Abdul Rehman Makki, at CTD police stations of Lahore, Gujranwala, Multan, Faisalabad and Sargodha in July 2019.
According to the CTD, JuD was financing terrorism from the massive funds collected through non-profit organisations and trusts including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, Muaz Bin Jabal Trust, etc. These non-profit organisations were banned in April last year as the CTD, during detailed investigations, found that they had links with the JuD and its top leadership.
The crackdown on JuD last year followed a warning by Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to Pakistan to deliver on its commitments to curb terror financing and money laundering.
CRUCIAL FATF MEETING:
The court decision is of significant importance for Pakistan as it is heading off to a crucial FATF meeting. In the last meeting in January this year, key FATF players including the US, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, France in addition to Islamabad’s all-weather ally China gave Pakistan the much-needed pass to avoid being blacklisted. The meeting had observed that Pakistan was compliant on the 22-point agenda it was given to improve its performance for combating money laundering.
It is in this background that the crackdown on JuD was initiated last year followed a warning by the anti-terror watchdog to Pakistan to deliver on its commitments to curb money laundering which is a potential source of terror financing.
The government had announced a ban on JuD and its charity wing Falah-e-Insanyat Foundation (FIF) to partially address the concerns raised by India that Pakistan supported these and six similar organisations, including Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) or at least considered them low-risk entities.
Law enforcement agencies over the next few weeks had intensified their crackdown on JeM, JuD, FIF and other banned outfits, and arrested more than 100 activists. Nearly 200 seminaries besides hundreds of other facilities and assets associated with them across the country were taken over by the government.
Saeed, who in November 2018 was set free from a 300-day-long house arrest, has been repeatedly accused by the US and India of masterminding the 2008 attacks on the Indian financial capital that killed 166 people.
Saeed was declared a global terrorist by the US and UN over his alleged role in the Mumbai attacks. JuD is considered by the US and India to be a front for LeT, the militant group blamed for the attacks.