A UK lawyer has said that Altaf Hussain could be jailed for 15 years, adding that if convicted, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) founder will likely appeal for a suspended jail sentence at home.
Speaking to anchor Kamran Khan on Dunya News, Barrister Rashid Aslam said that Altaf Hussain faces serious incitement of terrorism charges under Sections 1 of Terrorism Act 2006 and Section 44 of 2007 Serious Crimes Act in the UK.
He told Kamran Khan that Altaf Hussain’s lawyers will try their best to avoid a jail term for the MQM’s leader. Kamran Khan’s show is broadcast globally and in the UK, where the show was aired on Friday and again on Saturday.
The barrister said, “Altaf Hussain’s lawyers can request the court to give the minimum suspended jail sentence if he is convicted but the laws about Terrorism Act in [the UK] are very strict. Normally, and as in previous cases, you have to spend two-thirds of the sentence in jail but it will be discretion of the judge whether to give him a suspended jail sentence or imprisonment. He will spend time at home if he gets a suspended jail sentence and there will be conditions.”
Altaf Hussain can appeal at the High Court, and even further, if he is convicted. “His lawyers will immediately try to bring up the issue of health grounds so that he is not sent to the jail. They will say that his mental health will suffer, as they have used the same ground before. At the start of this trial, they had attempted to delay the trial but this was refused from the court. In my opinion, they will bring up this issue again if he gets jail sentence and will request to the judge.”
The news anchor relayed that Altaf Hussain faces charges under five different clauses of the Terrorism Act and explained that even if one act is proven to be linked to the accused, then he could be jailed for 15 years. The relevant acts include causing someone’s life to be in danger, endangering someone’s property, endangering public’s life and property or interfering with electronic system or disrupting public life.
Barrister Rashid Aslam said, “If any of these could be proven, then it falls under the Terrorism Act. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has read the case to the jury yesterday and now the jury will see if any offence has taken place under any of the five acts, whether any properties have been damaged since there were attacks on offices of news organisations and if any electronic devise and vans were damaged or whether anyone was injured as a result of his act, or whether there was a heinous crime like murder as you said that a person had died. These are the serious nature of crime that fall under the Terrorism Act.”
Kamran Khan opined that Altaf Hussain’s case was an “open and shut case” as it covers more than one speech or incident. He asked whether the jury, who are ordinary people and not legal experts, would know that over the years, Hussain made divisive speeches which fuelled the deaths of scores of people, before and after these speeches, in arson, and violence.
Kamran Khan asked whether the jury members will know that Altaf Hussain had a pattern of using violent rhetoric in his and this was not just a one-off matter.
Lawyer Rashid Aslam explained that the prosecution had fully educated the jury on Altaf Hussain’s background and explained in detail about his speeches. Images and videos were also shown to the jury, including video footages from three TV stations, footage of Rangers HQ, Nine Zero footage and videos of other troublesome incidents.
“The jury is fully educated in this country about the background. They told the jury about Altaf Hussain’s background since 1990. By the time this trial goes on, they know each and everything because the crown prosecution service, judges and other institutions involved in the case try their best to educate the jury completely about the case so that there is no wrong conviction or any issue in future.”
Kamran Khan started the show with a full background of the case and said that Altaf Hussain was involved in “inciting people to commit violence again and again” from London to Karachi. He played an audio of a female worker telling Altaf Hussain on 22nd August 2016 that “we are all ready, give us a hint and we will go ahead.” Kamran Khan said the CPS has placed numerous audios and videos of Hussain’s speeches before the jury, including the violence that followed Altaf Hussain’s speech in which one person was killed and several vehicles were put on fire.
“Generally, all Pakistanis and especially the people of Karachi remember well what was the nature of these speeches, what threats used to be issued and what used to be the outcome of these speeches; what used to unfold before the speeches and what used to happen after the speeches. It’s impossible for the people of Karachi to forget those spectacles,” Kamran Khan said
According to CPS, Altaf Hussain had incited his followers to attack the Rangers’ HQ and attack the media, the show host said, adding that the case is being heard on daily basis.