Suspected Mumbai attacks mastermind was released on bail despite government attempts to keep him detained.
Suspected Mumbai attacks mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi was released from jail on Friday on the Lahore High Court’s order, lawyers said, in a move likely to inflame tensions with neighboring India.
“Jail authorities released my client, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, from detention at the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi,” said Rizwan Abbasi, the legal counsel for the accused. “Justice was delivered to my client because had been detained illegally,” he added.
Abbasi said that he would return to court if the Government of Pakistan attempt to detain his client once again. “We have been fighting for his release for the past four months. If the government places him under illegal detention again, we are ready to return to the courts.” The lawyer also claimed Lakhvi had been detained without any evidence. “The court has already rejected allegations that my client was involved in the Mumbai attacks,” he added.
The release comes after nearly four months of wrangling over Lakhvi’s detention. In December, a judge granted him bail but the government responded by imposing a series of detention orders to keep him detained. However, judges have repeatedly cancelled the orders. The original bail order in December prompted an angry response from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said it came as “a shock to all those who believe in humanity.”
A spokesman for India’s home ministry, who asked not to be named, condemned Lakhvi’s release. “This is a very disappointing announcement. An insult to the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai attack. The global community should take serious note of Pakistan’s double-speak on terrorism,” the spokesman said.
U.S. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said Washington was “gravely concerned” by Lakhvi’s release and had “communicated that concern to senior Pakistani officials over the course of many months and as recently as yesterday.”
“Terrorist attacks are an insult on the collective safety and security of all countries,” Rathke added.
In France, where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting, President Francois Hollande spoke of his “indignation” at Lakhvi’s release. In a speech in Paris on the first day of Modi’s visit, Hollande thanked the prime minister for his “solidarity” over the Islamist attacks in the French capital in January. “In the same vein, I express to you my indignation each time that a terrorist is freed while he still has responsibility for an abominable act,” Hollande said.
After India reacted with outrage Friday, Pakistan foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam hit back, blaming Delhi for delaying the case. “Inordinate delay in extending cooperation by India complicated the case and weakened the prosecution,” she said, adding that the ministry is still “confident” that justice will be served.
On Thursday, the Lahore High Court ruled once again that Lakhvi’s detention was illegal and ordered the government to immediately release him against two surety bounds of Rs. 1 million each. “Justice Anwar-ul-Haq in his orders declared the detention unjustified and ordered for an immediate release of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi,” said Abbasi at the time. “The honorable judge said it is against Pakistan’s Constitution to detain anyone for longer than 90 days without providing definitive proof of guilt,” he added.
The Mumbai attacks were blamed on banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). India has demanded Pakistan act against the accused or hand them over for prosecution in New Delhi. Lakhvi and six other suspects have been charged in Pakistan but their cases have made little progress since 2008. Delhi accuses Islamabad of purposely delaying the trials, while Pakistan claims India failed to hand over crucial evidence.
Indians took to social media to express their anger over the latest release. Journalist Barkha Dutt tweeted: “Dear Pakistani courts, would it take Lakhvi to mow down children in a Peshawar school for you to see him for the terrorist he is?”