- Title: PAKISTAN: Pakistani court acquits two in killing of 11 French
- Date: 7th May 2009
- Summary: KARACHI, PAKISTAN (MAY 5, 2009) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF COURT BUILDING MORE OF BUILDING CORRIDOR WITH COURT ROOMS DEFENCE LAWYER MOHAMMAD FAROOQ TALKING TO ASSOCIATE LAWYER LAWYERS AND RELATIVES OF ACCUSED ENTERING COURT ROOM NAME PLATE OF JUDGE POLICEMEN AND PEOPLE GATHERED OUTSIDE COURT ROOM LAWYERS COMING OUT OF COURT ROOM AND FATHER OF ASIF ZAHEER, ONE OF TWO ACQUITTED MEN GREETING DEFENCE LAWYER (SOUNDBITE) (Urdu) DEFENCE LAWYER MOHAMMAD FAROOQ SAYING: "The Sindh High Court has ruled in Sheraton bomb blast case that the prosecution has failed to prove the case against the two accused Asif Zaheer and Mohammed Rizwan and acquitted them." DEFENCE LAWYER AND OTHERS LEAVING LAHORE, PAKISTAN (MAY 5, 2009) (REUTERS) HAFIZ SAEED (the one in the middle wearing beard), THE FOUNDER OF LASHKAR-E-TAIBA (LeT) MILITANT GROUP ALONG WITH LAWYER AND POLICE BEING WHISKED AWAY SAEED GETTING ONTO POLICE VAN/POLICE AND MEDIA CROWDING
- Embargoed: 22nd May 2009 13:00
- Location: Pakistan
- Country: Pakistan
- Reuters ID: LVA8DFQOCTONJ0LUTS2YM8O6TI3G
- Story Text: A Pakistani court sets free two men sentenced to death for planning the killing of 11 French navy engineers in a 2002 bomb attack in the city of Karachi, separately a court in Lahore releases two members of an Islamic charity which the United Nations says is a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group.
A Pakistani court set free on Tuesday (May 5) two men sentenced to death for planning the killing of 11 French navy engineers in a 2002 bomb attack in the city of Karachi, a defence lawyer said.
The acquittal of the two could raise questions about Pakistan's commitment to tackling surging militancy and comes as President Asif Ali Zardari prepares for security talks in Washington with President Barack Obama.
The two men, Asif Zaheer and Mohammad Rizwan, were accused of belonging to the Harkatul Mujahideen al-Aalmi, an al Qaeda-linked militant group accused of carrying out the attack outside the Sheraton Hotel, which also killed two Pakistanis.
"The Sindh High Court has ruled in Sheraton bomb blast case that the prosecution has failed to prove the case against the two accused Asif Zaheer and Mohammed Rizwan and acquitted them," defence lawyer Mohammad Farooq told reporters in Karachi. The two men were arrested in December 2002 and sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in 2003. They later challenged that decision.
Farooq said the court had ordered that the two be released if they were not wanted in connection with any other case.
The French engineers were in Pakistan helping to build submarines. The New Zealand cricket team was in Karachi at the time and was preparing to leave their nearby hotel for a match when the bomb went off. New Zealand quickly called off the tour.
Separately, a court in the city of Lahore released two members of an Islamic charity which the United Nations says is a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group.
The LeT was accused of organising the November 2008 assault on the Indian city of Mumbai in which 166 people were killed.
The two men were detained in a crackdown on militants launched after the Mumbai attack, said Yahya Mujahid, a spokesman for the Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity. The court, however, extended for 60 days the detention of Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the LeT, who was also detained after the Mumbai attack.
Saeed now heads the charity.
Last month, the Supreme Court ordered the release on bail of radical cleric Abdul Aziz, the former chief cleric of the Red Mosque in Islamabad, which was for years an Islamist hub.
More than 100 people were killed when commandos stormed the Red Mosque complex after a week-long stand-off in July 2007, sparking a sustained surge in militant attacks.
Zardari, widower of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto who was killed in a suicide attack in December 2007, will be meeting Obama and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday.
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