Pakistan restricts movement of “Mumbai mastermind”

Mon Sep 21, 2009 3:41am EDT

By Mubasher Bukhari

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistani authorities have curbed the movements of an Islamist militant leader accused by India of masterminding last year’s Mumbai attack, police and the militant’s aides said on Monday.

India wants Pakistan to prosecute Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, before it resumes a peace process broken off after last November’s assault on Mumbai in which 166 people were killed.

Police took position outside Saeed’s residence in the eastern city of Lahore, and his aides said he was barred from leaving to lead prayers for the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival on Monday.

“There are no written orders but he is not allowed to go out of his home. He has been barred from performing his religious duty, it is against basic human rights,” said Yahya Mujahid, a spokesman for Saeed, adding that Saeed’s son led the prayers.

A senior police official, Sohail Sukhera, told reporters outside Saeed’s residence that his movements had been restricted for security reasons, but said he was not under house arrest.

India wants forceful action against Saeed and other suspects before it resumes formal talks under a peace process launched in 2004, although the nuclear-armed rivals have held three bilateral meetings on the sidelines of international gatherings.

DIPLOMACY

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is to meet his Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna, in New York on September 27 on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly, after their foreign secretaries, or top diplomats, meet a day earlier.

The talks may help ease fraught relations between the countries, whose rivalry complicates U.S. efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan.

Pakistan detained Saeed in December after a U.N. Security Council resolution put him and a charity he heads on a list of people and organizations supporting al Qaeda.

But a court released him June on grounds of insufficient evidence, prompting the government to appeal to the Supreme Court for his re-arrest. The case is pending.

The restrictions on Saeed came two days after Interior Minister Rehman Malik said he was being investigated and would be arrested after concrete evidence was made available against him.

Police also lodged two complaints against Saeed on Friday for delivering a speech on jihad, or Muslim holy war, and appealing for funds for his banned charity, Jammat-ud-Dawa.

Pakistan has acknowledged that the Mumbai attack was plotted and partly launched from its soil and has been holding trial of seven suspects behind closed doors in a jail.

The next hearing is scheduled for September 24.

[original]

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