Chief cleric of Pakistan`s Lal Masjid acquitted in all cases

Abdul Aziz was yesterday acquitted in the last case by a Judicial Magistrate Mohammad Naveed Khan.

Islamabad: The chief cleric of Pakistan`s Lal Masjid, where former President Pervez Musharraf had launched a military operation to flush out radicals in 2007, has been acquitted in the last of 27 cases registered against him.

Abdul Aziz was yesterday acquitted in the last case by a Judicial Magistrate Mohammad Naveed Khan.

Since 2001, 27 cases had been registered against Aziz, and the last one was registered on April 1, 2007 by police in Islamabad. The first case against Aziz and his associates was registered on September 28, 2001 for delivering fiery speeches.

Between 2001 and 2005, the police registered 10 cases of which five were under sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997. More cases were later registered against the cleric between January and July 2007, when the military conducted an operation against the Lal Masjid.

Many cases were thrown out of court for lack of evidence or the unwillingness of witnesses to testify against Aziz.

The last case registered against Aziz stated that he had threatened shopkeepers of Aabpara and Jinnah Super markets for selling movies with "indecent" content. In this regard, the prosecution named 60 witnesses against Aziz.

However, when the witnesses, including the shopkeepers, were produced in court, they disowned the prosecution`s story and claimed Aziz had never threatened them or visited their shops, the Dawn daily reported.

Wajihullah, counsel of Aziz, claimed after the cleric`s acquittal that Musharraf had forced police to register fake cases against him and his family.

He claimed Aziz and his family had been acquitted in the cases but Musharraf was still facing trial.

The Lal Masjid operation ended in a bloody eight-day siege, killing at least 100 Pakistani troops and extremists.

Haroon Rasheed, the son of slain Lal Masjid cleric Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, has filed a petition in Islamabad High Court against police officers who refused to join an investigation team to probe his father`s murder.
The team had been constituted to probe Musharraf in connection with the murder of Rasheed during the operation.


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