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Pervez Musharraf Indicted for Treason
Apr 01, 2014

A Special Court in Pakistan has charged former military ruler Pervez Musharraf with high treason-a crime that carries the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Pervez Musharraf, who ruled the country following a 1999 coup until 2008, faced a total of five charges during the hearing at the court in Islamabad, including three counts of subverting, suspending and changing the country's constitution, sacking Pakistan's chief justice and imposing emergency rule. He pleaded not guilty to each of the charges. The former president denied he was a traitor, and instead claimed Pakistan prospered and grew under his tenure.

The hearing took place amid tight security, with thousands of police and security forces lining the route to the court. In an unexpected twist, the retired army general was represented by a new lawyer, with no reason yet given for the change.

Pervez Musharraf went into self-imposed exile in 2008, in London and more recently in Dubai, after standing down as president. He returned to Pakistan last year with the aim of running in the country's national elections. But his plans unravelled as he became entangled in a web of court cases relating to his time in power.

In 2007, Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency, suspended Pakistan's constitution, replaced the chief judge and blacked out independent TV outlets. He said he did so to stabilize the country and to fight rising Islamist extremism. The action drew sharp criticism from the United States and democracy advocates. Under pressure from the West, Pervez Musharraf later lifted the state of emergency and called elections in which his party fared badly.

Pervez Musharraf stepped down in August 2008 after the governing coalition began taking steps to impeach him. Prosecutors say he violated Pakistan's constitution by imposing the state of emergency. He is also on an exit control list in Pakistan, which prevents him leaving the country.

The indictment on treason charges is historic for Pakistan, marking the first time that a military ruler of the country has been investigated or indicted on such charges. The special court has held several hearings since being constituted in November 2013, and its investigations have now culminated in indictment.

The former Pakistani president has been facing several legal cases since his return to the country, including those pertaining to the killings of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti in 2005, during his tenure as president. While he has been bailed on those cases, the treason trial remains his most serious legal challenge.

Pervez Musharraf seized power in a military coup against the country’s government, then led, as it is today, by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in October 1999. The treason trial, however, only pertains to events in 2007.

 

 


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