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Pakistani court bars deportation of 5 Americans

  • Court orders 5 Americans arrested in Pakistan can't be deported without its permission
  • Men were arrested December 9 amid suspicion that they were plotting attacks
  • Government attorney feared they might be deported before the investigation was completed
  • Pakistan

(CNN) -- Five Americans arrested a week ago in Pakistan cannot be handed over to another country or the FBI without the permission of the Lahore High Court, the court ordered Thursday, according to a government lawyer.

The men were arrested December 9 amid suspicion that they were plotting attacks. They were transferred Saturday from Sargodha, the small town where they were seized, to a more secure location in Lahore, police said.

The court ruling was a response to a petition from Khalid Khawaja, a former Pakistani intelligence official and founder of an organization called Defense of Human Rights of Pakistan. Under Pakistani law, any citizen can file a petition with a court.

After Khawaja filed his petition claiming the arrest of the five had been unlawful, the same court on Monday ordered that the Americans be held pending further investigation, according to Faisal Zaman, attorney for the government of Punjab Province.

Zaman told CNN that Khawaja feared the men might be deported before the investigation was completed.

Pakistani authorities described the Americans as college students who "were of the opinion that a jihad must be waged against the infidels for the atrocities committed by them against Muslims around the world," according to a report.

The Lahore court issued a statement saying, "Federal and Punjab province governments are directed not to hand over the Americans arrested in Sargodha to any foreign country or agency unless they receive prior approval from this court."

According to Pakistani law, after a certain amount of time the police or investigating agencies would have to approach the court for permission to continue to hold the suspects while they investigate them.