- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 7, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) | An attorney for a purported al Qaeda-linked militant said Wednesday that he asked a court to halt the sale of a book by slain ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto that he says defames his client.

Mrs. Bhutto’s allegations in “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy & the West” that Qari Saifullah Akhtar was involved in an October bombing in Karachi that killed about 150 people are “baseless,” attorney Hashmat Habib said.

Mr. Habib said he is also seeking more than $200 million in damages from the British publishers of Mrs. Bhutto’s book, Simon & Schuster, printers, sellers, and her widower Asif Ali Zardari as her heir and “beneficiary.”

Mr. Habib said an additional sessions court in Islamabad had issued notices to the defendants to appear on Sept. 5.

Court officials could not immediately be reached for comment, and neither could a spokesman for Mr. Zardari, who leads the main party in Pakistan’s government.

Mrs. Bhutto survived the October attack, which targeted her motorcade as supporters welcomed her back from exile.

The ex-prime minister was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack in December in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. Mrs. Bhutto had finished writing the book shortly before her assassination.

The book was published in mid-February, and Mr. Akhtar was arrested later in the month. He was freed in June and was not formally charged.

Mr. Akhtar has previously faced accusations of involvement in two failed assassination attempts on President Pervez Musharraf and allegations that he ran an al Qaeda training camp at Rishkhor in Afghanistan, which was visited by Osama bin Laden.

The attorney has acknowledged that Mr. Akhtar used to be a commander of an Islamic guerrilla faction that fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s but has said Mr. Akhtar has renounced militancy and denies involvement in the Karachi bombing.

Mr. Habib said Mr. Akhtar is an “an internationally recognized mujahed [warrior] of Islam,” who had been arrested several times but was never tried by any court.

“All of these allegations are baseless and concocted. … The book should be withdrawn from all the sale points throughout the world,” Mr. Habib said.

He also demanded that the defendants apologize for damaging Mr. Akhar’s reputation.

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