US warns of 'damage to bilateral ties, Pakistan’s reputation' over Hafiz Saeed's release

The White House has called Pakistan's release of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) leader Hafiz Saeed a “step in the wrong direction” and said a refusal to re-arrest him would damage bilateral ties and Pakistan's reputation around the world.

In a statement on Saturday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the US “strongly condemns” the release of Hafiz Saeed from house arrest. She urged his “immediate re-arrest and prosecution”.

“Saeed's release, after Pakistan's failure to prosecute or charge him, sends a deeply troubling message about Pakistan's commitment to combatting international terrorism and belies Pakistani claims that it will not provide sanctuary for terrorists on its soil,” she said.

“If Pakistan does not take action to lawfully detain Saeed and charge him for his crimes, its inaction will have repercussions for bilateral relations and for Pakistan's global reputation,” Sanders said.

On Friday, Washington had urged Pakistan to re-arrest Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) leader Hafiz Saeed and charge him with the crimes he was accused of committing.

Saeed was released before dawn on Friday after a three-judge panel in Lahore High Court ended his detention in Lahore. Saeed's spokesman Yahya Mujahid called it a “victory of truth.”

Addressing a sermon at Lahore's Jamia Masjid Al Qadsia a day after walking free, Saeed said he was "fighting for the freedom of Pakistan and Kashmir."

The move outraged both US and Indian authorities.

“India is outraged that a self-confessed and a UN proscribed terrorist is allowed to walk free and continue with his agenda,” Raveesh Kumar, India's foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters at a weekly briefing in New Delhi.

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