Rashid Rauf was scheduled to appear in court November 15 in Lahore, Pakistan. At his previous court date, November 6, his hearing was adjourned in the wake of President General Pervez Musharraf's declaration of emergency. Rauf was denied bail on his first attempt, in Rawalpindi.
According to The Guardian,
The decision immediately sparked suspicion that the Pakistani authorities were attempting to divert criticism from the political crisis sweeping the country.It makes perfect sense. President General Musharraf has just declared a state of emergency, supposedly because the judiciary had been preventing him from getting tough with terrorists.
But so far, he's only been cracking down on political opponents (except Benazir Bhutto and her followers), lawyers, judges, and human rights activists. And he's been criticized for that; rightly so, in my opinion.
Musharraf has even gone so far as to have judges sign "loyalty oaths", and those who refused to sign have been dismissed. Now, in the first tangible sign of this new toughness, Pakistan has dropped all the charges against one of the most famous [?] "terrorists" they have in their custody. I'd say that diverts criticism from the political crisis, wouldn't you?
The BBC was so thrilled with this story that they put quotes around the word "dropped" in their headline:
Charges against Briton 'dropped'
They put together a serious article, too:
The Pakistani authorities have dropped all charges against a British national arrested there in August 2006, his lawyer says.That's not an excerpt; that's it! Three cheers for the BBC for their in-depth coverage of the key suspect in the alleged plot that shut down her main airport and kick-started onerous travel restrictions which remain in effect to this day!
Rashid Rauf faced charges of being in possession of false identity papers and bomb-making materials.
Relatives of Mr Rauf told the BBC that he had been taken from jail on Thursday in a police convoy.
However, police say he is still being held in jail because they have not been told to release him.
According to AFP, the extradition is a done deal, and thoroughly "illegal".
Of course, what constitutes "illegal" in Pakistan at the moment is a very "murky" question, as Fatima Bhutto describes it. She could have said "mushy", because it's now up to President General Pervez Musharraf to decide what's legal and what's not, with the constitution being held in abeyance and all the new rules in place. But Fatima Bhutto cannot say that, nor can anyone else in Pakistan, where it's now illegal to mock the President General.
From AFP via Google News:
"We have started the legal proceedings today for the extradition of Rashid Rauf. He is wanted by the British government," Tariq Pervaz, director general of Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency, told AFP.Formalities! Don't they need evidence anymore? No, apparently not. The President General can decide what they need.
"The proceedings will take a week to 10 days," Pervaz said.
"The extradition will be decided on by a court of law after the completion of the formalities."
So Rashid Rauf has not been released. He's just being moved from one jail to another, pending his extradition hearing, as The Guardian reports:
Suspected Atlantic airline plotter faces deportation
"He is being illegally held and they want to deport him," said Hashmat Habib, who represented Rauf at a hearing in an anti-terrorism court earlier yesterday. Habib said Rauf had been taken to Adiala jail near Rawalpindi.Wanted by the British! That's a good one! It's too bad they don't have any evidence against him. The UK trying to extradite Rashid Rauf reminds me of a dog chasing a car: First of all, good luck! And secondly, what is he going to do if he catches it?
Human rights activist Amna Janjua said she had spoken with Rauf's relatives. "They are fearing the authorities will deport him to jail," she said. "His wife is so upset she has been taken to hospital." Janjua accused Britain of being involved in an illegal deportation. "He is being sold, or the government is trying to please the west," she said.
Habib was standing in for Rauf's normal lawyer, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqi, who has been jailed as part of a crackdown on lawyers under the 13-day-old emergency rule.
Last month Siddiqi told the Guardian that he did not expect his client would get due process. "Had there been no accusation from the Britishers, he would have been acquitted by the courts by now. The only influence on this case is that he is wanted by the British," he said.
The British police spent four months and 30 million searching the woods for evidence against the alleged plotters before they finally called off the search. Do you think the search was fruitful? Half of the people they arrested were released without being charged, including Rashid Rauf's brother. The plot they were allegedly plotting was impossible. And the story goes in circles; this is not the first time the charges have been dropped against the "key suspect". So it's not out of the question that charges against Rashid Rauf could be reinstated. But I doubt it.
I've been wrong before and maybe I shouldn't speculate at all, but to me it looks as if the President General has decided to make a "gift" of Rashid Rauf to his allies in the war on terror. If he sends a card with that gift, it could well be inscribed "He's your problem now!"
twenty-third in a series