LONDON: The Westminster Magistrates’ 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 several years in 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 the current Chief Magistrate and Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot oversaw the proceedings and imposed strict bail conditions on the MQM founder. Altaf Hussain pleaded not guilty when charges were read out to him.
The judge told the MQM founder that was under bail conditions and must comply with the rules. The bail conditions require the MQM founder to stay at his Abbey View residence from midnight till 9am; the MQM founder will wear an electronic tag at all times; his passport will remain with the police; and he will not apply for a travel document of any kind. The judge imposed Section 52A on the court reporting in this case.
A statement by Scotland Yard said: " Hussain, 66, who lives in Mill Hill, north London, was charged under the Terrorism Act 2006. On 22 August 2016 published a speech to crowds gathered in Karachi, Pakistan which were likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public to whom they were published as a direct or indirect encouragement to them to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism and at the time he published them, intended them to be so encouraged, or was reckless as to whether they would be so encouraged."
The Met Police said: "Hussain was previously arrested on 11 June on suspicion of intentionally encouraging or assisting offences contrary to Section 44 of the Serious Crime Act 2007. He was released on bail and subsequently charged as above."
The charges relate to 22nd August 2016 speech which was made from London by Mr Hussain and violence erupted in Karachi after the speech. That speech was relayed over loudspeakers in which the MQM founder asked his followers to attack media houses in the city.
Toby Cadman, who advised the Government of Pakistan on MQM-related cases, said the Met Police's decision to charge Hussain was a great development and spoke of the cooperation between the United Kingdom and Pakistan. He said the charges against the MQM leader were of a serious and sensitive nature.
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 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.
Speaking to Geo News, a spokesman for Scotland Yard said that a letter under “Mutual Legal Assistance” has been sent to Pakistan’s “competent authorities” in relation to two speeches made by the MQM leader on March 11, 2015, and August 22, 2016.
According to section 1(2) of the Terrorism Act 2006:
A person commits an offence if—
(a) he publishes a statement to which this section applies or causes another to publish such a statement; and
(b) at the time he publishes it or causes it to be published, he—
(i) intends members of the public to be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate acts of terrorism or Convention offences; or
(ii) is reckless as to whether members of the public will be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate such acts or offences.
Under section 1(7) of the same act, a person found guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—
(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding [15 years] or to a fine, or to both;
(b) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both;
(c) on summary conviction in Scotland or Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both.
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