ISLAMABAD, Jan 28: A local court on Monday acquitted Lal Masjid Khateeb Maulana Abdul Aziz along with his spouse and two other clerics in the kidnapping case of four policemen.

On January 10, Senior Civil Judge Sheikh Sohail had framed charges against Maulana Aziz, his wife Majida alias Umme Hassan, Maulana Afzal and Maulana Abdul Basir for kidnapping the police officials on May 18, 2007.

They were also accused of obstructing the policemen from performing their duty and using the loudspeaker for inciting people against the government.

The clerics, however, pleaded that they had neither kidnapped the police officials nor committed any other illegal act.

It may be noted that it is a routine practice under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) that statements of witnesses are recorded and they are cross-examined after the indictment of an accused.

However, in the kidnapping case of the police officials, in which Maulana Aziz and his associates were booked, the court had recorded the statements of the witnesses even before framing the charges against the accused persons.

Later, in order to complete the CrPC requirement, the court offered the prosecution - the Islamabad police - to produce witnesses and reserved judgment on Jan 12. However, no witness appeared before the court.

On Monday, the judge announced the short order acquitting all the four accused persons of the charges.

According to the FIR registered by the Aabpara police on May 18, 2007, students of Jamia Faridia and Jamia Hafsa, the two seminaries affiliated with Lal Masjid, kidnapped the policemen at the behest of Maulana Aziz and his associates.

It said the seminary students while attacking the policemen were chanting slogans against the government and demanding the release of Khalid Khawaj, a former ISI official and a close friend of Maulana Aziz and his brother Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, who was at that time in the custody of law enforcement agencies.

The FIR also alleged that in May 2007 during a Friday sermon Maulana Aziz had warned of suicide attacks if the government launched an operation against Jamia Hafsa.

During the hearing of the case, Qari Wajihulllah, the counsel for Maulana Aziz, maintained that the police had framed his client. He claimed that Maulana Aziz was not present at the place from where the policemen had been kidnapped.

According to him, in order to please the then military dictator Pervez Musharraf, the police had fabricated 27 ‘bogus’ cases against the Lal Masjid cleric.

He pointed out that the police had produced eight witnesses in the court but none of them deposed against the clerics of Lal Masjid.

Qari Wajihullah told Dawn that Maulana Aziz had been acquitted in all but one case. The only pending case against the cleric is related to raids by the seminary students on CD shops at F-7, F-6 and Aabpara market. The case was registered a few days before the Lal Masjid operation in 2007, he added.

It may be mentioned that the Islamabad administration in its reply submitted to the Lal Masjid commission had mentioned a series of cases registered against the cleric.

According to the administration, Maulana Aziz on February 25, 2007, was booked in the abduction case of an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) of the special branch. On March 27 the same year, he was nominated for abducting a woman and her daughter and on March 28, a case was registered against the cleric and others for kidnapping two police officials and seizing their official vehicles.

On March 28, a case was registered against him for launching an FM radio without obtaining permission from the government. On April 14, the cleric was booked in the CD shops burning case. On May 18, he was booked for kidnapping the four police officials and on May 21 for abducting three other policemen. 0n July 3, the Lal Masjid management snatched weapons from the police.

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