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Pakistan court sentences accused terrorist Hafiz Saaed

Pakistan court sentences accused terrorist Hafiz Saaed
Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack that killed 166 people, has been slapped with a prison sentence of more than five years in Pakistan in a terrorism financing case. File photo by Rahat Dar/EPA-EFE

Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind behind the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai that killed more than 165 people, was sentenced Wednesday to more than five years in jail by a Pakistan anti-terror court.

The presiding judge in the Lahore court handed down a prison term of five years and six months to Saaed and an associate in a terrorism financing case unrelated to the Mumbai attack, his lawyer said.

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Saeed, 69, is the founder of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has blamed by India and the United States for the deadly 2008 incident. Both have designated him as a terrorist and had long advocated for his arrest.

He had escaped punishment in Pakistan, however, until July 2019, when he was arrested by the Counter-Terrorism Department of the Punjab Police near Lahore. He and more than a dozen accomplices were charged with financing terrorism in two separate cases.

Saeed had pleaded not guilty and claimed the Pakistan government was being pressured by India and the United States to file "false" cases against him.

The sentencing came shortly before the international Financial Action Task Force watchdog group was to meet in Paris.

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Pakistan is seeking to avoid being blacklisted by the task force as a country that tolerates financing for terrorism, a designation that would result in its isolation from the international banking system and a strict regime of checks and safeguards.

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