MQM founder in thick soup at London

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LONDON: A UK court has banned Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) founder Altaf Hussain from appearing on any form of media in the UK or Pakistan, after Scotland Yard charged him with a terrorism offence in the incitement speech inquiry against him.
Hussain, a 66-year-old Pakistani political exile living in London for more than two decades, was charged with encouraging terrorism after a speech he made in 2016 to supporters in Karachi was followed by violent protests. He faces up to seven years imprisonment for the speech which was “likely to be understood” as encouraging supporters to acts of terrorism, or was “reckless” of the possible consequences.
Hussain was presented on Thursday before the Westminster Magistrates’ court where his lawyers pleaded for bail. But the judge imposed strict conditional bail restrictions, ordering that Hussain should stay under curfew at a specified address every night from midnight to 9AM, and that he will not be allowed to travel without the court’s permission.
In court, a lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service told the judge that it was in the public interest to prosecute this case. She said that Hussain is a British national of Pakistani descent, and that he incited violence in Karachi on August 16, 2016 by asking crowds of his supporters to shut down media companies. As a result of his actions, damage was caused and oneperson died in the carnage followed that day in Karachi, she told the court. Altaf Hussain’s lawyer told the judge that he has always campaigned for justice, denying the charges pressed against him. Hearing both sides, the judge banned Hussain from media forums of any kind in the UK or in Pakistan, restricting him from commenting on the political situation in Pakistan. When asked, Hussain confirmed to the judge that he understands the conditions. The MQM founder broke down in tears during the court proceedings. His formal trial will now start on November 1 at the Central Criminal Court for case management.
Earlier today, Hussain appeared at Southwark Police Station in South London for the third time in four months on Thursday to face police grilling in relation to the incitement speech inquiry. Hussain was charged for Intentionally Encouraging or Assisting Offences, Contrary to Section 44 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 in relation in relation to his August 16, 2016 speech from London and the violence that followed in Karachi because of that speech. But, for the third time, Hussain refused to answer the questions. His lawyers told police that their client would not answer questions of the police in the incitement speech probe.
The MQM founder was accompanied by his London-based lieutenants during the appearance. Inside the police station, he was accompanied by a two-member legal team of English lawyers. In his previous interviews, the MQM founder had decided to go for “no comment” refusing to answer the questions of the police. After his arrest in June this year, the MQM founder was called again to appear at the police station for questioning in the second week of July, and then again in September this year.
Hussain was grilled for almost five hours at the Southwark police station in connection with the same case and was released after his bail was extended. The MQM founder was arrested on June 11, 2019, during a dawn raid at his home and taken to a south London police station. Scotland Yard at the time had said Hussain had been arrested on suspicion of intentionally encouraging or assisting offences contrary to Section 44 of the Serious Crime Act 2007. The UK authorities launched the investigations into the matter after an FIR was lodged in Karachi naming the MQM leader as the instigator. Pakistan then approached UK to investigate the case. Scotland Yard confirmed last year that an ‘International Letter of Request’ has been sent by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to the Pakistani authorities, seeking help in its investigations in relation to at least two speeches made by the MQM founder.