Pakistani radical cleric indicted in terror financing case

Associated Press

Lahore, Pakistan – A Pakistani court on Wednesday indicted a radical cleric wanted by Washington for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks and four of his associates on terror financing charges.

Hafiz Saeed and the four other suspects pleaded not guilty when a judge read charges against them in a courtroom in the eastern city of Lahore amid tight security.

Saeed is the founder chief of outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba group, which was blamed by New Delhi for the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people in neighboring India. His charity organizations, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniat, are alleged fronts for Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Washington, which has announced a $10 million bounty for Saeed’s arrest, had praised Islamabad when Prime Minister Imran Khan arrested the cleric in July on charges of terror financing.

New Delhi also hailed Saeed’s arrest at the time. Since then, Pakistan has stepped up its crackdown against outlawed groups, seizing their bank accounts and taking control of clinics, hospitals and schools that are run by various militant groups.

None of the cleric’s spokesmen were immediately available for comment on his indictment. His followers had denounced his arrest, claiming the measure was aimed at appeasing Washington and New Delhi.

Until his latest arrest, Saeed had lived freely in Pakistan though he was detained previously several times, along with some of his close aides. He was never charged or put on trial until now.

In January last year, Saeed was taken into custody and kept under house arrest for 11 months, until a court order ended his detention in November.

Pakistan is currently on the Financial Action Task Force’s grey list, denoting its status as a haven for money laundering. Khan’s government says it will do whatever is possible to eliminate terror financing in the country.