Pakistani court jails Islamist Hafiz Saeed for an extra 31 years

A Pakistani court has jailed Islamist leader Hafiz Saeed, founder of the militant group blamed by the United States and India for a deadly 2008 attack in India, for 31 years in connection with terrorism financing, court documents showed.

Saeed was found guilty of multiple breaches in two cases but it was not immediately clear how much jail time the new verdict would entail given his current incarceration and the fact that his sentences run concurrently.

“The sentences awarded to convict Hafiz Muhammad Saeed run concurrently of this case and of previously awarded, if any,” a the court said in an order, dated April 7, that was seen by Reuters on Friday.

Saeed, founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, is already in jail having been found guilty on multiple similar charges in 2020.

Saeed has been arrested and released several times over the past decade. He denies any involvement with militancy, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which gunmen who slipped into Mumbai by boat from Pakistan killed 160 people, including Americans.

The United States offered a reward of $10 million for information leading to his conviction.

The latest sentencing comes as Pakistan tries to avoid blacklisting by the global dirty money watchdog the Financial Action Task Force, which judges a country’s ability to combat illicit financing, including to militant organisations.

Pakistan has been on the watchdog’s “grey list” since 2018.

India has repeatedly demanded that Saeed be handed over for trial for his suspected role in the Mumbai attack but Pakistan has refused to do so.

India has not commented on Saeed’s new prison sentence but late on Friday it declared his son, Hafiz Talha Saeed, a “terrorist” under its Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

India said Talha Saeed, a cleric living in the Pakistani city of Lahore, had been actively involved in recruitment, funding, planning and execution of attacks in India and on Indian interests in Afghanistan.

“The central government believes that Hafiz Talha Saeed is involved in terrorism and he should be notified as a terrorist under the said Act,” the Indian government said in a notification.

India has for decades accused old rival Pakistan of supporting Islamist militants in attacks on Indian targets throughout the region. Pakistan denies that and accuses India of supporting separatist rebels in Pakistan.