Christian Action Network

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Pakistan released Qaeda suspect as case was to be heard

(Herald Tribune) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: A Pakistani man suspected of aiding Al Qaeda and imprisoned for three years was released because the Supreme Court took up his case of detention without trial, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, 28, was released without charge and was at home in Karachi, said his lawyer, Babar Awan. Khan had been included in a group of more than 200 missing people who are being held without charge in Pakistan and whose cases came before the Supreme Court on Monday.

Khan was arrested at Lahore International Airport in July 2004, during a joint Pakistani-British operation.

Pakistani and American authorities said that soon after his arrest they had found files on his computer that led to the raising of the terrorism alert level in the United States. He was also accused of acting as a courier for Al Qaeda by receiving messages from Pakistan’s remote border areas and sending them worldwide via the Internet.

American officials declined to speak for the record on Monday, but said they were dismayed at the news of his release.

Pakistan’s government officials did not explain why Khan had not been charged or released. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema, said there may have not been enough evidence against Khan to hold up in court. He compared the case to those of inmates from Guantánamo Bay who had been released without charge after a number of years.

A researcher for Human Rights Watch, Ali Hasan, said he had learned that Khan was quietly released July 24, and speculated that Khan was no longer useful as a source of information to law enforcement agencies. He said he had not seen Khan.

“He is not the first and certainly will not be the last,” Hasan said. “They keep these people, sometimes for months, sometimes for a couple of years, and then they let them go.”

Awan, Khan’s lawyer, said the lack of evidence against his client and the group action taken up by the Supreme Court had probably led to his release.

“He was never charged,” Awan said Tuesday in a telephone interview from Lahore. “Nobody knows under whose custody he was during all this time. He was kept in illegal confinement. He was never produced before any court, and there was no indictment.”

The Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, has taken the law enforcement ministries and intelligence agencies to task over the disappearance of hundreds of people since 2001. The chief justice was suspended in March by the president, General Pervez Musharraf, but he won reinstatement. He has continued to pursue the cases of the disappeared since resuming his job on July 20.

Many of the disappeared — the Interior Ministry has a list of 287 missing people that it is trying to trace — have been held without charge.

Many of them are Baluch nationalists and political advocates, but several are suspected of having links to radical Islamist groups or terrorist groups and have been detained by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies in cooperation with the United States or Britain.

Khan’s experience is typical of many of those detained without trial, and his case was the first of the disappeared to be brought before the Supreme Court, his lawyer said.

Pakistan’s Interior Ministry had in early hearings denied any knowledge of Khan, even though three government officials confirmed his arrest and detention in 2004, Awan said.

These officials, he said, were Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, then the information minister; Faisal Saleh Hayat, the interior minister; and Major General Shaukat Sultan, the military spokesman.

Awan said he had told the court at an earlier hearing that these officials had acknowledged the arrest of Khan at a news conference in 2004.

“The Supreme Court had ruled that if Khan is not unearthed, then these three will be responsible,” Awan said.

The news of his release came out officially only on Monday when the deputy attorney general, Naheeda Mehboob Ilahi, was asked about Khan’s whereabouts by the Supreme Court and said Khan had already been released.

“I was taken by a surprise,” Awan said. His office later reached Khan’s family, who confirmed that he had arrived home. Awan gave few details of Khan’s release and said he had not spoken to him.

“They were not courteous,” he said of Khan’s jailers. “He was abandoned in the vicinity of his residence.”

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August 22, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, Homeland security, news, personal, politics, random, religion, Terrorism, Terrorism In The U.S., Terrorism News, Uncategorized, War-On-Terror

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