MQM founder Altaf Hussain acquitted of encouraging terrorism in Pakistan

Altaf Hussain.

Pakistan’s Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) founder Altaf Hussain has been acquitted by a British court over charges relating to a 2016 speech that was alleged to have incited terrorism in Karachi.

Hussain was put on trial at Kingston Crown Court in London and was accused of encouraging terrorism through the speech he made from London to his followers back in Pakistan.

He was acquitted of the charges by a majority verdict of 10-2 jurors. Hussain had addressed his supporters and his speech was broadcasted from loudspeakers in the city. After the speech, violence erupted and MQM supporters clashed with police.

Prosecutors had accused Hussain of urging his supporters to ransack media houses and storm local military headquarters. One person was killed in the violence and two TV studios were attacked and taken off the air. Many police officers were also assaulted and injured.

The charge as stated by the UK police was that Hussain had “on August 22, 2016, published a speech to crowds gathered in Karachi, Pakistan which were likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public to whom they were published as a direct or indirect encouragement to them to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism and at the time he published them, intended them to be so encouraged, or was reckless as to whether they would be so encouraged”.

Rupert Bowers, defending, urged jurors to judge the case “by the yardstick of Pakistan” and its “endemic violence” and asked the jury not to convict him because he “did nothing other than that he has always done in trying to represent an oppressed part of a population by organising what is axiomatically a peaceful protest.”

He added: “If violence ensued in the latter part of that day, you’ve seen it, he’s regretful of that. In my submission to you, he’s not a terrorist, and I ask you to acquit.”

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After the verdict, Hussain said he had apologised for raising anti-Pakistan slogans. He said: “I was banned from TV and I spoke for the rights of Muhajirs. I highlighted their miseries and their sufferings, the issue of disappearances and killings and torture of Muhajir youth. I will never apologise for that.”

Hussain applied for asylum in the UK in the 1990s and has been living in self–imposed exile since then. He was later granted British citizenship.

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