LONDON: The self-exiled leader of Pakistan’s Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Altaf Hussain has been found not guilty of encouraging terrorism in Karachi from London, contrary to the UK’s section 1(2) of the Terrorism Act 2006.
A jury at the Kingston Crown Court in London failed to come up with a unanimous verdict as directed by the judge, and gave a 10-2 majority verdict on two counts of terrorism charges.
It was August 22, 2016 and Altaf Hussain, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement founder and supremo, who at that time ruled Karachi, was addressing party workers protesting against the “enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of workers” outside the Karachi Press Club.
During the speech, he shouted anti-Pakistan slogans and called it an “epicentre of terrorism” and a “headache for the world”. Altaf incited party workers to take the law into their own hands and go to media houses “to get justice” on their own.
As soon as his speech ended, party workers attacked a news channel office, which was located in the vicinity.
Earlier, the jury ended its four and a half hour long meeting after failing to reach a unanimous verdict. Mrs Justice Juliet May told the 12-member jury to convene against and return with a majority verdict, something the judge wanted to avoid.
Altaf Hussain was present at the court all the time. He arrived with about a dozen of his supporters. Journalists also gathered near the Kingston Crown Court.
In a video shared by journalist Murtaza Ali Shah, the MQM founder was seen coming to the court and saying that he has left everything to the God.
The jury deliberated behind close doors and was supposed to give its unanimous verdict. However, in many cases juries fail to arrive at an agreement and convene a second or third meeting. This has happened in the case of Altaf Hussain, sources said.
The trial at the Kingston Crown Court ended on Friday, with Mrs Justice Juliet May telling the 12-memeber jury to return with a unanimous verdict within three days. But it did not happen and there was a majority judgement.
It was in April 2019 that a Metropolitan Police team came to Pakistan and recorded statements of witnesses of the Sindh Police. They were provided CCTV footage, pictures and copies of statements.
Less than three months later, the Met Police took Altaf Hussain into custody. He was, however, let go just a day later on bail. In October that year, the London police charged him under Section 1(2) of the Terrorism Act, 2006 that deals with encouraging terrorism.
According to section 1(2) of the Terrorism Act 2006, a person commits an offence if (s)he (a) publishes a statement to which this section applies or causes another to publish such a statement; and (b) at the time he publishes it or causes it to be published, he (i) intends members of the public to be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate acts of terrorism or Convention offences; or (ii) is reckless as to whether members of the public will be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate such acts or offences.
A day later Altaf Hussain was able to obtain bail from a London court.
The sentencing hearing began on Monday, January 31, 2022 when Altaf turned up the Crown Court in London in a blue suit with his signature Ray-Ban sunglasses. He was in a wheelchair.
He declined to comment on his case, saying that it was sub judice. Altaf Hussain denies the charges and says he will defend himself during the trial.
The hearing continued for almost two weeks. The arguments from defence and prosecution ended on Friday, February 12.
At 12-member jury retired to deliberate over the verdict. Mrs Justice May (Juliet May) instructed the jury members to come up with a unanimous decision.