The Nation (Pak) : Rashid Rauf escapes from police custody

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rashid Rauf escapes from police custody

by SHAHID RAO | December 16, 2007

RAWALPINDI — A British national Rashid Rauf, suspected mastermind of London Trans Atlantic plane-plot to blow up US-bound airliners managed to escape from the Federal Police custody here Saturday.

The police officials remained tight-lipped till late Saturday night regarding the escape of Rashid Rauf. However, sources in the department confirmed to The Nation that the accused had succeeded to flee from the custody.

The sources also informed that Capital police had registered a case with the Police Station Margalla and arrested about a dozen police staffers deputed to guard him.

“Police have taken all the police staffers deputed to guard Rashid Rauf under custody after registering a case against them and started investigations to probe the matter,” they added.

According to the details, Federal Police brought Rashid Rauf from Central Adiala Jail to produce him before Additional Deputy Commissioner General (ADCG) Malik Zafar in an inquiry.

However, Rashid managed to escape from the police custody while he was being brought to the court of ADCG Islamabad from Central Adiala Jail.

The British authorities had foiled the bid to blow up the airliners and arrested many suspects in this connection in London last year. Rauf was suspected for his alleged connection with the plot as it was reported in the national and international media.

According to the police, Rashid Rauf was arrested on August 10 2006 from the precincts of airport with 29 bottles of hydrogen peroxide and some forged documents.

Earlier, an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Rawalpindi No 2 had ordered release of the British national Pakistani Rashid Rauf.

The ATC judge Sakhi Muhammad Kahot had issued the release orders of Rashid Rauf arrested for his alleged involvement in plotting to bomb Trans-Atlantic flights in August 2006 when the public prosecutor had told the court the government had withdrawn the case against him.

The public prosecutor Raja Qayyum had told the court that Home Department Punjab had discharged Rashid of all allegations and would not pursue the case any more.

Rashid was charged with terrorism, impersonation and conspiring to bomb Trans Atlantic flights in London in August last year. Rawalpindi police along with some fake documents and explosive materials arrested him in August last.

Earlier, the same court had rejected the bail application of Rashid on October 10. The ATC took up the case again in July this year after Lahore High Court Rawalpindi bench reversed an order of a former judge of ATC who dropped terrorism charges against the British national in December last year.

Agencies add: Federal Interior Secretary Kamal Shah said he had been informed of the escape, but said he had no details.

“I don’t know anything - I’m shocked,” said Rashid Rauf’s father, Abdul Rauf, who is living Birmingham, 200 miles north of London.

Rashid Rauf, who also has a Pakistani passport, was arrested by intelligence agents in August on a tip from their British counterparts.

At the time, Pakistan identified him as a key suspect in the alleged terror plot, sparking a security alert in Britain that saw mass cancellations of flights to and from Heathrow Airport for several days in August and increased restrictions on carry-on items.

However, a Pakistani anti-terrorism court dropped terrorism charges against Rashid Rauf on Dec 13 and held him accountable only for possessing bomb-making materials and living in Pakistan without valid documents. Later, a higher court - acting on an appeal by Pakistani authorities - suspended the anti-terrorism court’s ruling until Jan 15.

A judge then extended his detention until Jan 19.

His lawyer, Hashmat Habib, said his client had been falsely implicated and would prove his innocence.

Rashid Rauf arrived in Pakistan soon after his uncle was stabbed to death in 2002. Pakistan has said British authorities had asked for Rashid Rauf’s extradition in connection with a murder inquiry.