UK court acquits Altaf Hussain, drops terrorism charges

A 12-member jury in London’s Kingston Crown Court has acquitted UK- based MQM leader Altaf Hussain of charges of inciting his workers to engage in terrorism in Karachi. The Crown Prosecution had registered a case against Altaf Hussain under Section 1 (2) of the Terrorism Act 2006. Altaf Hussain was accused of inciting his party workers to violence in two separate speeches telephonically from London on 22 August 2016. Altaf Hussain was accused of allegedly raising anti-Pakistan slogans in his speech and inciting his supporters to attack the ARY, Geo and Sama offices in addition to the Karachi Rangers headquarters. Altaf Hussain pleaded not guilty and was present in court at the trial. Altaf Hussain’s lawyer told the court at the start of the trial that his client would testify in court but later changed his mind.

The prosecution had told the jury that on the eve of 22 August, 2016 Altaf Hussain in a speech lasting one hour and forty minutes, raised the slogan “Pakistan Murda Baad” and his supporters followed. Altaf Hussain had repeated the same words. The prosecution had told the jury that the accused was sitting in a safe environment in the UK and was instructing his workers in Pakistan to take steps that would incite terrorism under British law.

Altaf Hussain’s lawyer had told the jury that “my client is not a terrorist’.

Defense counsel said that Altaf Hussain was under stress due to the Lahore High Court’s ban on broadcasting his speeches. Altaf Hussain’s lawyer had argued before the jury that the jury should take into account the situation in Pakistan. He said the allegations against his client should not be judged on British standards as the situation in Pakistan and Britain, culture, politics and attitudes of elements of the state are different. Defense attorneys said state elements in Pakistan have been accused of torturing, abducting and extra judicially killing civilians.

Defense attorneys said state elements in Pakistan have been accused of torturing, abducting and extra judicially killing civilians. The defense lawyer said that Altaf Hussain’s talk of raiding the Rangers headquarters with 500,000 people and parading the Rangers chief on a donkey in the city was nothing more than a form of “passionate rhetoric”.

The defense lawyer further said that when Altaf Hussain addressed his supporters in Karachi on 22 August, 2016 he was the head of MQM, Pakistan’s third largest political party. Defense counsel said that his clients were only raising their voice against the barbarism of state institutions in Karachi.

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