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Pakistan high court rejects appeal to jail Mumbai attack suspect

Pakistan's Supreme Court [official website] ruled Tuesday that a Pakistani cleric accused by India of plotting the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks [JURIST news archive] cannot be jailed due to lack of evidence. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed [Global Jihad profile] is the head of fundamentalist terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) [CFR backgrounder], which was allegedly behind the attacks. Pakistan put Saeed under virtual house arrest [JURIST report] one month after the onslaught, where he remained except for a three-month period last summer, but the Lahore High Court (LHC) [official website] ordered his release [JURIST report] in October after finding insufficient evidence to link him to the Mumbai attacks or al Qaeda [JURIST news archive]. The Supreme Court's ruling could strain the already fragile relationship between India and Pakistan, which had recently begun peace talks.

The charges against Saeed had been filed under the Pakistani Anti-Terrorism Act [text] and were related to speeches Saeed gave while visiting Faisalabad last year. It is claimed that he discussed [Times of India report] the significance of Jihad and asked for funding for his charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which is believed to be a front for the LeT. Saeed's lawyer successfully argued that JuD was not a banned group. In September, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced that his government would indict seven suspects [JURIST report] for their role in the attacks, also requesting further evidence from India that Saeed was involved in planning the attacks. Mumbai has suffered a number of terrorist attacks allegedly linked to the LeT in recent years, leading the government to consider controversial terrorism laws and to institute special courts [JURIST reports] to try suspects.

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