A Pakistani court this week ordered the release of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, 67, co-founder and leader of internationally designated terrorist organizations Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jama’at-ud-Da’wah. In April 2012, the US announced a bounty of $10 million on Saeed, for his role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in which 164 civilians, including six occupants of the local Chabad House, among whom were Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, the latter five months pregnant.
India considers Saeed one of its most wanted terrorists because of his involvement in the Mumbai attack, as well as a 2006 Mumbai train bombing and a 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. He is listed on India’s National Investigation Agency’s Most Wanted list and his organization is banned in India, as well as in the US, the UK, the EU, Russia, and Australia.
Since the 2008 massacre, Indian politicians have been demanding that Pakistan extradite Saeed to stand trial in India, but there is no extradition treaty between the two countries. Now his arrest and trial have become more dubious than ever, since on Friday he was freed by Pakistan after less than a year under house arrest.
On Wednesday, a court in Lahore rejected a request from the provincial government of Punjab for a 60-day extension to Saeed’s detention.
Saeed thanked the Pakistani judges in a video statement, saying, “The lawyers of the court supported me tremendously and I am so thankful to God for that. This is a great step for freedom for Pakistan.”
In a 2015 interview, Saeed denied any connection to the Mumbai massacre, telling The Diplomat that “neither Pakistan nor Lashkar-e-Taiba were behind these attacks. Instead this act was staged by the Indian intelligence service so India could afterwards tighten its anti-terror laws.”
According to The Guardian, Saeed’s primary target is the disputed Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. He is also quoted as saying, “There cannot be any peace while India remains intact. Cut them, cut them so much that they kneel before you and ask for mercy.”