ISLAMABAD – Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was given on Wednesday 11 years in jail by a Pakistani court on terror financing charges, a public prosecutor said.
Abdul Rauf Watto, a deputy prosecutor, told EFE that the judge of the anti-terrorism court, Arshad Hussain Bhutta, sentenced Hafiz Saeed to two prison terms of five and a half years each in two terrorism related cases.
The prison terms are to run concurrently which means that the cleric will have to spend five and a half years in prison unless he decides to challenge his conviction.
Saeed was charged in December last year with collecting funds for his proscribed popular charity, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which he allegedly runs as a frontal for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba militant outfit.
The firebrand Islamist leader, known for his anti-United States and anti-India rant, has pleaded not guilty.
The judge said the case proves that Saeed owned properties of the charity that has been banned by the government for its violent activities. He has also been asked to pay a fine of 15,000 Pakistani rupees (nearly $100).
One of Saeed’s accomplices, Zafar Iqbal, another JuD leader, has also been sentenced to two 5.5-year prison terms for the same reasons.
Saeed and other JuD members were arrested in July last year because, according to the prosecution, “their charitable organizations raised funds and used them for terrorist activities.”
The Islamist leaders were held days before Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan met US President Donald Trump at the White House.
The US alleges that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa was being run as a cover for the Lashkar-e-Taiba that allegedly carried out the carnage in Indian city of Mumbai in 2008 that caused 166 deaths in near-simultaneous bomb and gun attacks at a train station, a Jewish center, several restaurants, and hotels, including the iconic Taj Mahal hotel. The dead included foreigners.
Saeed’s conviction and sentencing come months before the global Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is to decide whether to include Pakistan in its “blacklist” for its failure to stop terrorist financing.
Pakistan declared Jamaat-ud-Dawa a terrorist organization for the first time in March, days after a military tension with India, the worst escalation in decades between the two nuclear power neighbors.
The US has offered a $10-million bounty for Saeed. But the Islamist leader has been seen freely attending public events and giving speeches.