A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has sentenced five leaders of Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed's Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) to nine years of imprisonment each in a terror financing case.
Three of them -- Umar Bahadar, Nasarullah and Samiullah -- have been convicted for the first time since the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Lahore pronounced its verdict some time ago in the terror financing cases registered by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of the Punjab police.
The other two -- JuD spokesperson Yahya Mujahid and senior leader Prof Zafar Iqbal -- had already been convicted for many years in other terror financing cases.
ATC Lahore Judge Ejaz Ahmad Buttar on Saturday handed down nine-year imprisonment to each five of them. The judge also ordered a six-month jail term to Saeed's brother-in-law Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki in the same case.
The court found the JuD/LeT leaders guilty of offence of terrorism financing. They had been collecting funds and unlawfully financing the proscribed organisation, LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba). The court has also ordered confiscation of assets made from funds collected through terrorism financing, the CTD said.
The JuD leaders were presented in the court amid high security and the media was not allowed to cover the proceedings.
The CTD of Punjab Police had registered 41 FIRs against the JuD leaders, including 70-year-old Saeed, in terror financing cases. The trial courts have so far decided 37 of them.
The ATC had sentenced the LeT founder, Saeed, for a collective imprisonment of 36 years on terror finance charges under sections 11-N of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 in five cases so far. Saeed's jail terms will run concurrently. That means he will not stay in jail for many years. He is serving his term in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail along with other convicted JuD leaders.
Saeed-led JuD is the front organisation for the LeT which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, including six Americans.
Saeed, a UN designated terrorist whom the US has placed a USD 10 million bounty on, was arrested on July 17, 2019 last year in the terror financing cases.
The US Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. He was listed under the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 in December 2008.
The ATC Lahore had also sentenced LeT operation commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi for a collective imprisonment of 15 years on three counts in a terror financing case. He will have to serve in jail for five years as his sentence in three counts (five years each) will run concurrently.
The global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is instrumental in pushing Islamabad to take measures against terrorists roaming freely in Pakistan and using its territory to carry out attacks in India and elsewhere.
The Paris-based FATF placed Pakistan on the Grey List in June 2018 and asked Islamabad to implement a plan of action to curb money laundering and terror financing by the end of 2019 but the deadline was extended later on due to COVID-19 pandemic. In February, the FATF retained Pakistan on its Grey List until June.
With Pakistan's continuation in the 'grey list', the country may find it difficult to get financial aid from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, thus further enhancing problems for the cash-strapped nation.
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