Ruling dropping charges against Rauf suspended
ISLAMABAD: A high court in Pakistan on Wednesday suspended a lower court’s ruling that dropped terrorism charges against a British suspect in a plot to bomb trans-Atlantic passenger jets out of Britain, according to a lawyer.
The British Muslim, Rashid Rauf of Pakistani origin, was arrested in August, and Pakistani officials identified him as a “key person” in the airline terror plot.
The uncovering of the alleged plot by British police triggered a pre-emptive security alert that saw mass cancellations of flights to and from London’s Heathrow Airport for several days in August.
On December 13, an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi transferred Rauf’s case to a regular criminal case, saying the police’s charges against him did not fall under laws that applied to terrorism suspects.
A criminal court had started proceedings against Rauf over charges that he allegedly possessed forged travel documents and a chemical for making explosives, and adjourned the hearing until January 5. The charges carry up to 14 years in prison or a fine.
However, on an appeal by the government, the high court delayed the anti-terrorism court’s ruling and stopped the criminal court from hearing the case until January 15, said Hashmat Habib, a lawyer for Rauf.
At the next hearing, the high court would decide whether to uphold the anti-terrorism court’s verdict or order it to carry out a retrial against Rauf on terrorism charges, said Habib.
The high court gave its ruling to suspend the anti-terrorism court order on an appeal by the Punjab government, where Rawalpindi is located. Rauf is held by police in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near Islamabad.
Punjab government prosecutor Chaudhry Mushtaq confirmed the high court ruling, saying that authorities wanted to try Rauf in an anti-terrorism court instead of a regular criminal court.
Pakistan has been asked by the British government to extradite Rauf in connection with a 2002 murder inquiry in the UK. Rauf moved to Pakistan soon after his uncle was stabbed to death in April 2002.
Pakistan has said that it has not yet taken made any decision on the request for handing Rauf over to Britain.
Dozens of suspects were arrested in Britain and Pakistan in August in connection with the alleged plot. Pakistani intelligence officials have alleged that Rauf had contacts with an Afghanistan-based Al Qaida operative who was the mastermind of the scheme. ap