LONDON: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain will go on trial at the Old Bailey on 1st June, 2020, in the terrorism case brought against him by Crown Prosecution Service's Counter Terrorism Division related to the incitement speech made in August 2016 from London to Karachi.
The MQM supremo appeared at the Old Bailey on Friday for a procedural hearing of the case. Justice Sweeny, hearing the case, announced that the trail will start on 1st June 2020 and name of the trial judge will be announced later.
Flanked by his colleagues from the MQM International Secretariat, the MQM founder arrived at the court six weeks after being charged at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court with a terrorism offence in the incitement speech inquiry against him.
At the same hearing, the bail for Hussain was extended. It was agreed that a preliminary hearing would be held on March 20, 2020. The bail conditions will remain in effect while Altaf Hussain is on bail.
In a statement, the MQM’s International Secretariat said: “The founder and leader of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Mr Altaf Hussain attended a case management hearing at the Old Bailey, Central Court. The Honorable Judge has set a timetable between the defense and prosecution for exchanging documents.”
Criminal law expert Barrister Moeen Khan explained that encouraging terrorism under Section 1 of the Terrorism act 2006 is a criminal offence. “The word terrorism in legal terms has a broad meaning. It can be interpreted as endangering public life, property, and use of violence and the threat of use of violence. Under the law, terrorism is also defined as using a threat to advance a political or religious goal. The accused can be tried at magistrate or crown court - if they are tried at crown court, the punishment is seven years imprisonment plus an unlimited fine.”
He said that the defendants have to prove that there was no intention to encourage act of terrorism or violence. “The defendant can say the statement does not reflect my personal beliefs and I do not endorse that statement. The prosecution will try to prove that it is a personal belief and the individual fully endorses that belief.”
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, which was also 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.
A statement by Scotland Yard after charging the MQM founder 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."
Hussain was charged for Intentionally Encouraging or Assisting Offences, Contrary to Section 44 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 in relation in relation to his August 16, 2016 speech from London and the violence that followed in Karachi because of that speech.
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 the UK to investigate the case.
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