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Pakistan frees "father" of its nuclear bomb

US 'very much concerned' over the release of Khan

Published:

A Pakistani court on Friday ruled that nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, father of the country's atomic bomb, was a free man, five years after he was put under house arrest for selling nuclear secrets in the world's most serious proliferation scandal. The decision was criticized by the United States.

"It's a matter of joy. The judgment, by the grace of Allah, is good," Khan told reporters outside his Islamabad house soon after news of the High Court ruling broke.

"It is because of this judgment that I am speaking to you," said the 72-year-old scientist, who has been treated for prostate cancer.

Khan's lawyer said the High Court had declared him a free citizen.

"The court has said as he was not involved in nuclear proliferation or criminal activity, there is no case against him, therefore, he is a free citizen," lawyer Ali Zafar told Geo News television.

The chief justice of the Islamabad court, Sardar Mohammad Aslam, on Friday heard government lawyers and lawyers representing the nuclear scientist in closed doors chamber.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced concern about the court's decision to free Khan, who operated an alleged nuclear proliferation network.

"I am very much concerned and will have more to say about that," Clinton said when asked for reaction during a brief appearance.

State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid earlier told reporters that while Washington did not have confirmation as to whether Khan has been freed, "it would be unfortunate if the court released him," citing the "serious proliferation risk" that he presents.

The court has said as he was not involved in nuclear proliferation or criminal activity, there is no case against him, therefore, he is a free citizen

Abdul Qadeer Khan\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s lawyer

Father of the bomb

Khan, lionized by many Pakistanis as the father of the country's atomic bomb, confessed to selling nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya in 2004, but was immediately pardoned by the government, although his movements were restricted to effective house arrest.

It was not immediately clear to what extent security agencies would lift restrictions on his movements. His detention had been relaxed over the past year and he had been allowed to meet friends and had traveled to the city of Karachi at least once under tight security.

Last year, a U.N. nuclear watchdog said Khan's network smuggled nuclear blueprints to Iran, Libya and North Korea and was active in 12 countries.

Last month, the U.S. State Department said it had imposed sanctions on 13 individuals and three private companies because of their involvement in Khan's network.

Pakistan has never let foreign investigators question Khan, saying it had passed on all relevant information about his nuclear proliferation.

Case closed

Pakistan regards the case as closed, but U.S. and international nuclear experts investigating proliferation still want to question him.

The 72-year-old said he was proud of what he had done for Pakistan, in making it safe from India, and said he had no need to answer to any foreign government.

"I will always be proud about what I did for Pakistan," he told reporters.

"I am obliged to answer only to my government not to any foreigners," he said.

Khan said he was finished with his nuclear work and wanted to devote his time to education.

He said he had no plan to travel abroad apart from Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, for the Muslim pilgrimage known as hajj.

I will always be proud about what I did for Pakistan...I am obliged to answer only to my government not to any foreigners

Abdul Qadeer Khan