LONDON: The Crown Prosecution Service has concluded its case against the MQM leader Altaf Hussain at the Kingston Crown Court, urging the jurors to consider Hussain’s tone, tenor and words when he allegedly urged his followers to commit acts of violence in Karachi on 22nd of August, 2016.
Making a closing speech, the prosecutor addressed the jurors on Thursday afternoon stating that there is a general rule on “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” but this was a different case as the jury will have to consider whether the defendant committed the two charges/ counts alleged against him. The two counts, set out before the jury are, relate to Hussain’s first speech made at 07.30am (UK time) from London to Karachi and the second speech was made at 11.30 (UK time) which continued till PK time 05.16pm (1316 UK).
The prosecutor asked the jury not to look at the cultural aspects of Pakistani politics but at the laws of England and Wales that apply to everyone in this jurisdiction.
These laws apply to everyone who comes to live here or seeks refuge here, said the prosecution, adding that was happened on the morning and afternoon of August 22, 2016 resulted directly into acts of violence. The law says you may not encourage that to advance a political cause, to influence government or intimidate a section of the public and that’s precisely what Altaf Hussain did as in what called for, what he intended, and what he achieved.
The prosecutor said the three elements of these charges are encouraging acts of terrorism, whether Altaf Hussain published a statement, and there is no doubt that those two speeches were in fact delivered in a particular tone, manner and delivery.
The prosecutor told the jury that Altaf Hussain’s statements were ones likely to be understood by a reasonable person hearing them as a direct/ indirect encouragement to commit act(s) of terrorism. They were plainly encouragement, and demands, using various kinds of rhetoric and they were most definitely encouragement to commit acts of terrorism.
The prosecutor explained to the jury to consider the intention and objective of Altaf Hussain when he asked his followers to rise up against the DG Rangers and TV channels including Geo, ARY and Samaa in inciting them as set out in count one of the charge. These words were spoken by a leader of a large, potentially successful organisation, to those behind the cause of the Muhajir community, said the prosecutor.
The prosecutor then turned to the speeches Hussain made. He told the jury that during the early morning address, Altaf Hussain spoke of “revolution”, “rebellion” and the focus was interests, ideology, and political aims of the MQM. The prosecutor told the jury that Hussain asked his followers in the morning address to “march to Rangers HQs”, “get Director General Bilal Akbar outside”, “recite Kalima”, “come out, gather outside Press Club,” with references to anchor persons, Punjabi lot, and the police.
The prosecutor said that Altaf Hussain here attempted to excuse past behaviour of the MQM and talked about MQM’s martyrs, urging his followers to “If you have a sense of honour, come on foot” and “I need 500,000, I require 500,000, to shove inside Rangers HQ and get Bilal Akbar”. The crowd responded that they will shove.
The prosecution said Hussain said that “the TV channel that abuses MQM, gently tell the cameramen, take your camera and leave”. The prosecution said that Hussain asked his followers to go to Rangers HQ and then “go to Geo and ARY and their officers”. When Altaf Hussain asked his followers whether they want to do this or return home and do nothing, the crowd chanted that they were willing to lay down their lives for him.
The prosecution said the motivation here was to assemble, in an overwhelming number and go to Rangers HQs, get Bilal Akbar out, knowing that the only way that can occur is by violence. The prosecution said that he was seriously suggesting and inviting the crowd to get involved in the most serious violence.
The prosecution said that Hussain’s other invitation was directed at the media, against those who have not/ will not toe his line, publish his words and message and they have to be put off, terminated, rendered useless. The prosecutor said that Hussain was banned by the Lahore High Court and his “freedom of speech” was stifled. “Think about this, he is a man who wants his supporters to physically overrun the people and places that otherwise produce legitimate broadcasts and silence them,” said the prosecutor.
In the second count of the charge, the prosecution said, Hussain targeted the state of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, the Sindh govt, Bilal Akbar, Raheel Shareef and worked up the crowd against the security forces. The prosecution asked the jury to see that the types of acts Hussain asked his followers to commit included shutting down TV channels for the purpose of influencing the government for the political interests of the Muhajirs with a degree of racial, ethnic, ideological interests as represented by the MQM.
The prosecution said that Altaf Hussain gave a command that under English law amounts to act of terrorism (encouragement) from his relative safety in London.
The prosecution said that what happened following Hussain’s command was that the crowd walked straight outside with female activists at its head, to the front gates of ARY where “hapless” police officers were surrounded and “beyond doubt there was serious violence”. A police officer was surrounded, his weapon pulled from him, his weapon brandished, and he was beaten, one man was killed, fires were set, police vehicles were set alight, the prosecution told the jury.
The prosecutor said: “His speech was designed to influence people, incite violence, intimidate the government, and for a political cause. No amount of appeal to rights or to freedoms or anything else can stand in the way of that. Because the right of others is to enjoy liberty and access to property and he sought to deprive people of that.” Altaf Hussain denies the charges and has maintained that he didn’t commit any violence. His defence lawyer will open the case in Hussain’s defence on Friday.