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Pakistan ex-president charged with treason

Musharraf could face death penalty if convicted

<p>Former President Musarraf (right.) File picture: Wikimedia Commons</p>

Former President Musarraf (right.) File picture: Wikimedia Commons

  • ucanews.com reporter, Lahore, and AFP
  • Pakistan
  • March 31, 2014
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A Pakistan court on Monday charged former President Pervez Musharraf with treason, a landmark move in a case seen as a test of civilian authority in a country long dominated by the military.

Musharraf pleaded not guilty to each of the five charges handed down by the three-member bench.

Prosecutor Sardar Ismatullah said Musharraf was indicted for imposing emergency rule in 2007 and for subverting the constitution.

“These are baseless charges and I will defend them,” Musharraf told the court, Pakistani media reported.

“I am being called a traitor. I have been chief of army staff for nine years and served this army for 45 years. I have fought two wars and it is treason?" Musharraf asked.

Musharraf's defence team requested a court adjournment for eight weeks to allow them to prepare, and repeated a call for the retired general to be allowed to visit his ailing mother who is in her 90s and living in Dubai.

"He has come voluntarily to the court and he has pleaded not guilty. He will come back voluntarily," lawyer Farogh Naseem said.

The court is likely to respond to this request in its written order later Monday.

Musharraf declared a state of emergency in November 2007, shortly before the Supreme Court was due to rule on the legality of his re-election as president a month earlier while he was also the army chief.

He then arrested and sacked the country's top judges, including the chief justice, who challenged his decision.

Facing impeachment following democratic elections in 2008, Musharraf resigned as president, going into self-imposed exile in Dubai.

He returned to Pakistan in March last year to run in the general election. Almost as soon as he landed he was barred from contesting the vote and hit with a barrage of legal accusations, including his decision to raid a radical mosque in Islamabad, the killing of a rebel leader in Baluchistan and the assassination of ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The charges against Musharraf mark the first time a former leader or high ranking military official has faced criminal prosecution.

If convicted, he could face either life imprisonment or the death penalty.

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