Pak court adjourns Saeed''s petition to defend him in US court

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Rezaul H Laskar and M Zulqernain

Lahore, Jan 17 (PTI) A Pakistani court today adjourneda petition filed by Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Muhammed Saeedseeking legal aid from the government to defend him in a USlawsuit filed by relatives of two Jewish-American victims ofthe Mumbai attacks following a request from the petitioner.

Justice Nasir Saeed Sheikh of the Lahore High Courtput off the matter after Saeed''s counsel informed the courtthat he intended to move an application for placing thepetition before Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry as he hadheaded a bench that decided a related matter in the past.

Saeed, blamed by India for masterminding the Mumbaiincident, had last week filed a petition in the High Courtasking it to direct the federal government to appoint acounsel to defend him in a lawsuit filed in a Brooklyn courtby relatives of two Jewish victims of the 2008 attacks.

Saeed contended he had the right to seek aid from thegovernment as it had decided to defend Inter-ServicesIntelligence officials named in the lawsuit.

Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, who was recently appointed ChiefJustice of the Lahore High Court, headed a division bench thatfreed Saeed from house arrest on June 2, 2009.

Saeed had then been detained by Pakistani authoritiesafter the UN Security Council declared the JuD a front for thebanned Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT).

Chaudhry has also ruled in favour of several petitionsmoved by pro-Islamist organisations and groups.

In a controversial ruling last year, he briefly bannedFacebook after some groups objected to pages on the socialnetworking website that featured blasphemous caricatures ofProphet Mohammed.

The Pakistan government has already skirted the issueof defending Saeed in the US lawsuit, with the Foreign Officespokesman saying authorities would only protect the interestsof officials named in the case.

Pakistan''s decision to defend ISI officials does notapply to "non-officials", the spokesman said last week.

In his petition, Saeed has claimed that he heads theJuD, which he described as a "charitable organisation" thathas no links with the LeT.

He further claimed he was "wrongly detained" by thegovernment after the Mumbai attacks but a bench of the LahoreHigh Court had ordered his release after "observing that therewas no evidence that the petitioner had any links with AlQaeda or any terrorist who could endanger the security ofPakistan".

This bench was headed by current Chief JusticeChaudhry.

Saeed and several officials, including ISI chief LtGen Ahmed Shuaj Pasha and his predecessor, Lt Gen Nadeem Taj,have been served summons by the US District Court in Brooklyn.

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