Sri Lanka cricket team attack accused on bail

LAHORE, July 14, 2011 (AFP) – Pakistan on Thursday released on bail the leader of one of its leading extremist organisations who is accused of sectarian murders and masterminding an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. Malik Ishaq, head of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) and held for nearly 14 years, was cheered by more than 100 activists and showered with rose petals as he walked from a high-security prison in Lahore to a waiting vehicle.

“We were not terrorists before, nor are we now, and the court has proved that we are innocent,” Ishaq told his supporters.

Chaudhry Jehangir, the chief prosecutor for Punjab province, said Ishaq had been freed after the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to bail conditions of one million rupees ($12,000).

Defence lawyer Qazi Misbahul Haq said his client, arrested in September 1997, was implicated in 45 cases, mostly murder.

He was also accused of masterminding, from behind bars, the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, which wounded seven players and an assistant coach, and killed eight Pakistanis.

The attacks saw Pakistan stripped of its right to co-host this year’s cricket World Cup and the country has since hosted no top foreign teams.