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Monday, 30 December, 2002, 10:04 GMT
Pakistan militant walks free
Maulana Masood Azhar in March 2002 after his arrest warrant was extended
A Lahore court said the arrest was no longer sustainable
The leader of an outlawed militant group has been freed from house arrest in Pakistan after a year in detention.

Pakistani police lifted movement restrictions on Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader of the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammad, who is wanted in India on terrorism charges.

It is a day of freedom for us. A day of freedom for me and a day of freedom for my son

Azhar's father Ustad Allah Baksh
Azhar had been under house arrest since December 2001 in Bahawalpur, 500 km (310 miles) south of Islamabad.

Pakistani police said they were acting on an order from the Lahore High Court on 14 December.

Group banned

Azhar's father, Ustad Allah Baksh, said: ''It is a day of freedom for us. A day of freedom for me and a day of freedom for my son.''

An India soldier during the parliament raid on 13 December 2001
Delhi blames Azhar for the parliament attack in 2001

India had reacted furiously to the court's decision - an external ministry spokesman in Delhi said the Pakistani Government was pursuing a policy of supporting extremism.

Islamabad said it had requested an extension of the house arrest, but that the court had rejected the bid, claiming the government had failed to produce material that would warrant an extension.

Azhar was not formally charged with a criminal offence.

Azhar was one of three militants released by India in 1999 in exchange for the freedom of passengers on a hijacked Indian airliner.

Soon after his release, Azhar formed Jaish-e-Mohammad, or the Army of Mohammad, which is a key group fighting against Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region.

India says the group was responsible for an attack on the Delhi parliament building in December 2001.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf banned Jaish-e-Mohammad and several other Islamic groups early this year as part of a campaign to stem Islamic militancy in Pakistan.

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16 Dec 02 | South Asia
30 May 02 | South Asia
14 Dec 02 | South Asia
04 Feb 00 | South Asia
25 Dec 99 | South Asia
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