LAHORE: An anti-terrorism court Wednesday sentenced Jamatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and his aide Malik Zafar Iqbal for five and half years Rigorous Imprisonment (RI) each in two cases of terrorism financing.
The court held that the sentences passed in both cases will run concurrently and the convict will also have the benefit of section 382-B of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which says that length of any sentence of imprisonment imposed upon an accused shall be treated as reduced by any period during which he/she was detained in custody for such offence.
The decision has been announced four days before a scheduled meeting of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Paris to decide on Pakistan's grey list fate.
The court convicted both leaders under sections 11-N of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 and sentenced them to five years RI with fine of Rs10,000 each and six months RI under section 11-F (2) of the Act with a fine.
Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) had registered the two FIRs, one each in Lahore and Gujranwala, against both convicts under sections 11-F (5) (6), 11-H2, 11-I, 11-J and 11-N of the ATA 1997.
The court while announcing its verdict observed that the prosecution successfully proved its case under section 11-F (1) and 11-I (2) of the ATA.
The section 11-F (1) deals with offence of membership, support and meetings relating to a proscribed organization and the section 11-I deals with the offence of using and possessing money or property and intending to use, or has reasonable cause to suspect that it may be used, for the purposes of terrorism.
The court held that in addition to evidence presented by the prosecution, both suspects also admitted the ownership of the property by Tanzeem Markaz Dawatul Irshad, a proscribed organisation.
The court however, ruled that no cogent evidence for the offence under section 11-J of the ATA (funding arrangements for purpose of terrorism) had been submitted by the prosecution.
The court however held, "Since it has been admitted by the Investigating Officer that he has not collected evidence regarding the use of property in terrorism, provisions of funds to any terrorist organisation, same are the facts which directly relates to the investigation and there is no cavil to the proposition that case of the prosecution cannot be discarded due to the lapse on the part of investigating officer or his negligence."
Reuters adds: Hafiz Saeed was the first high profile figure convicted on terrorism financing charges in country, which denies regular accusations that it shelters militants.
The unprecedented ruling came ahead of a meeting of a world financial watchdog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF), next week to decide whether to blacklist Pakistan over a failure to curb terrorism financing.
"Hafiz Saeed and another of his close aides have been sentenced in two cases of terrorism financing," prosecutor Abdul Rauf Watto told Reuters.
"The total punishment in both the cases was 11 years but he will serve five and a half years in jail as the two punishments will run concurrently," Saeed's lawyer Imran Gill said. "We will appeal against the verdict."
Saeed has denied any involvement and says his network, which spans 300 seminaries and schools, hospitals, a publishing house and ambulance services, has no ties to militant groups.
It is funded by charities Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF). The JuD said Pakistan had been taking what it said were illegal and unconstitutional actions lately against Saeed and the groups, under pressure from West, and to please the FATF.