Pakistan Supreme Court grants bail to Lal Masjid cleric

Islamabad, April 15 (Inditop) Pakistan’s Supreme Court Wednesday granted bail to a radical cleric who incited a standoff with security forces at Islamabad’s Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) and adjoining seminary nearly two years ago, his lawyer said.

“The court has observed that there was no evidence against Maulana Abdul Aziz in this case that could prevent his release on bail,” attorney Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui told reporters.

The court ruling followed a petition filed by Aziz challenging the earlier denial of bail by a lower court in a case regarding the illegal occupation of a state-owned library adjacent to the mosque.

Authorities had filed 27 criminal cases against the cleric after he was arrested trying to escape disguised as a burqa-clad woman, shortly before military commandos stormed the Lal Masjid to end the standoff with his armed pupils in July 2007.

The “Operation Silence” left more than 100 people dead, including around a dozen security personnel, according to the government.

Aziz has already been granted bail in 25 other cases while charges against him in one case were dropped.

“Maulana Abdul Aziz is expected to be released within two to three days,” Siddiqui said.

The military attack on the Lal Masjid sparked a series of suicide attacks across Pakistan. Militant Muslims claim that more than 3,000 female students in the adjoining girls’ seminary also died in the operation. The government denied those allegations