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A Pakistan court on Wednesday ordered the release of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed, blamed for the horrific 2008 Mumbai terror attack, from house arrest that began in January this year.
A Judicial Review Board consisting of judges from the Lahore High Court rejected a plea from Punjab province to extend Saeed's detention after a senior Finance Ministry official failed to convince the board that his release would lead to diplomatic and other problems for Pakistan.
The Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief will be freed on the midnight of November 24 after the expiry of the house arrest order. Saeed and his four aides had been under house arrest since January under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Following the decision, Saeed told media that an end to his detention was tantamount to the victory of truth and called the decision "a serious blow" to India's demands that he be kept in custody and punished for the 2008 massacre, Dawn online reported.
Following the decision, Saeed supporters chanted slogans and showered him with rose petals.
The court had warned the government last month that it would end Saeed's house arrest if enough evidence was not submitted against him.
Saeed's advocate AK Dogar earlier said the JuD leaders had been detained merely on the basis of allegations, without any substantial evidence against them, and called the call for extending the detention "illegal" and a "violation of basic rights".
Dogar alleged that the government had placed Saeed under house arrest to oblige the US. Seeking an end to his detention, Saeed argued that his captivity without any legality amounted to a violation of the Constitution and his human rights.
In previous proceedings, the Punjab Home Department argued that if Saeed was freed, his activities would pose a serious threat to public safety and public order.
The department also said that his release may warrant international sanctions against Pakistan. However, the board rejected the plea to extend his detention on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
Saeed is accused by India of masterminding the Mumbai terror attack of November 2008 which left 166 Indians and foreigners dead. New Delhi has repeatedly urged Islamabad to punish him for the killings.