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Musharraf Indicted For Bhutto Murder

  • RFE/RL

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf

A court in Pakistan has indicted former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for the 2007 murder of ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

The court in Rawalpindi charged Musharraf on August 20 with three counts, including murder and conspiracy to murder.

Musharraf pleaded not guilty during the closed hearing.

Speaking to journalists outside the court house, Afshan Adil, a lawyer for Musharraf, rejected the charges against her client.

"The [former] president is not involved in this case at all," she said. "I think, among all the offences, that he is indicted with, not even a single one will stick..."

Musharraf's party also rejected the indictment.

Aasia Ishaque, a spokeswoman for the All Pakistan Muslim League party told reporters that the charges against Musharraf "are fabricated".

"How can a president be responsible for a murder during his rule?" she asked.

Musharraf is accused of failing to provide adequate security for Bhutto, who was killed in December 2007. Bhutto was killed in a bomb and gun attack during a political rally in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad.

Prosecutors and Bhutto loyalists have said that Musharraf failed to properly protect Bhutto despite repeated formal requests for added security, an earlier attack that killed scores of her supporters, and reports of threats against her life.

For Musharraf's court appearance on August 20, hundreds of police were deployed along the main road leading to the courthouse as the former general's car arrived.

On August 6, the court delayed the widely expected indictment because it was too dangerous for Musharraf to attend the proceedings because of threats to his life.

The court decision marks the first time Musharraf, or any former army chief in Pakistan, has been indicted for a crime.

Musharraf has faced a series of charges relating to his 1999-2008 rule since returning to the country in March from self-imposed exile.

In June, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered a treason investigation against Musharraf. Sharif declared that Musharraf "will have to answer for his guilt before the court."

He accused Musharraf of violating the constitution by overthrowing Pakistan's elected government in 1999 and for dismissing judges and imposing emergency rule in 2007.

If convicted of treason, Musharraf could face life in prison or the death penalty.

Musharraf is involved in two more separate cases.

One relates to the detention of senior judges that he had dismissed in 2007.

He is also one of the defendants in a case looking into the 2006 killing of a nationalist leader in a military operation in the restive southwestern province of Balochistan.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP