LONDON: The founder and leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Altaf Hussain has pleaded not guilty to the charge of boosting terrorism in a speech he delivered in Karachi from London on 22 August 2016.
Altaf Hussain, has been accused by the Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) of inciting terrorism and falling foul of British terror law over his speech to an MQM gathering in Karachi from his Edgware base in 2016.
On Monday, Altaf Hussain, who is on bail, attended a hearing in his Old Bailey case by Skype. He didn’t appear in court in person due to the COVID-19 scare and the social distancing guidelines being followed by courts.
Hussain wore a face mask, large tinted glasses, a red tie, and black suit for the virtual hearing attended by his barrister Joel Bennathan QC and prosecutor Mark Heywood QC.
He spoke clearly to confirm his identity and entered his not guilty plea to the single charge against him.
Mrs Justice May said the trial, originally due to start on 1 June, was “highly unlikely” to go ahead on that date due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Justice May further said there was a backlog of custody cases that were expected to be heard before trials such as Hussain’s, in which the accused was on bail. She adjourned the case for a mention hearing on June 1.
Hussain has lived in the UK in self-exile since the 1990s. Pakistani authorities have repeatedly sought the MQM chief’s Return to Pakistan to face trial in a number of murder and violence cases lodged against him.