LONDON: MQM founder and leader Altaf Hussain on MOnday pleaded not guilty to the charge of encouraging terrorism in a speech he delivered a couple of years ago in Karachi from his home in London.
Altaf Hussain, 66, has been accused by the Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) of inciting terrorism and falling foul of British terror law over his speech to an MQM gathering in Karachi on August 22, 2016, from his Edgware base.
The charge by CPS alleges that Hussain was "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".
At the time of the publication, he intended those who heard him to be encouraged, "or was reckless as to whether they would be so encouraged", the charge states.
Hussain has lived in the UK in self-exile since the 1990s.
On Monday, the MQM founder, who is on bail, attended a hearing in his Old Bailey case by Skype. He didn’t appear in court in person due to the coronavirus scare and the social distancing guidelines being followed by courts.
Hussain wore a face mask, large tinted glasses, a red tie, and black suit for the virtual hearing attended by his barrister Joel Bennathan QC and prosecutor Mark Heywood QC.
He spoke clearly to confirm his identity and entered his not guilty plea to the single charge against him.
Mrs Justice May said the trial, originally due to start on June 1, was "highly unlikely" to go ahead on that date due to the coronavirus crisis.
She said there was a backlog of custody cases that were likely to be heard before trials such as Hussain's, in which the accused was on bail.
The senior judge adjourned the case for a mention hearing on June 1.
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