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Pakistani Court Grants Bail To Pro-Taliban Cleric

FILE: Sufi Muhammad

A Pakistani court has granted bail to pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Mohammad, days after Washington suspended security assistance to Pakistan until it takes "decisive action" against Islamic militants.

A high court in the northwestern city of Peshawar ordered the elderly cleric's release on January 8 on health grounds.

At the hearing, Mohammad claimed that he should be released "as his health is deteriorating with each passing day," Dawn newspaper reported.

"He was too old to move and was suffering from kidney problems and weakness, and was taken to hospital many times," his lawyer Fida Gul told the AFP news agency.

Believed to be in his 90s, Mohammad is the chief of the banned group Tehreek Nifaz-e Shariat Mohammadi and the father-in-law of Maulana Fazlullah, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban.

Mohammad, who has been held in a maximum-security prison since 2009, is currently on trial on charges of murder, treason, terrorism, and rebellion.

The Peshawar court's decision came less than a week after the United States announced a freeze on aid to the Pakistani military.

"Until the Pakistani government takes decisive action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani group...the United States will suspend that type of security assistance to Pakistan," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on January 4.

Pakistan has responded harshly to the move, with the Foreign Office saying Washington's "arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements, and shifting goalposts are counterproductive" to addressing the threat of terrorism.

Based on reporting by AFP and Dawn