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Asia-pacific

Pakistan charges Musharraf with Bhutto's murder

© AFP

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-08-20

A Pakistani court on Tuesday indicted the former military ruler Pervez Musharraf (pictured) over the 2007 killing of Benazir Bhutto. The move is unprecedented in a country with a history of military rule and in which top brass have been untouchable.

A Pakistani court on Tuesday indicted the former military ruler Pervez Musharraf on three counts over the murder of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who died in a gun and suicide attack in December 2007.

The indictment, which could theoretically result in a penalty of death or life imprisonment, follows lingering speculation about the possibility of a behind-the-scenes deal that could allow Musharraf to leave Pakistan without facing the courts and embarrassing the military. It is one of a series of cases that the former ruler has faced since returning from self-imposed exile earlier this year.

"He should be tried," the public prosecutor, Mohammad Azhar, told reporters Tuesday, after a brief hearing in the city of Rawalpindi, during which the three charges of murder, conspiracy to murder and facilitation of murder were read out to Musharraf.

Musharraf, 69, who was bundled into the court amid high security, denied the charges and the case was adjourned until August 27.

Bringing charges against a former army chief is an unprecedented move in a country ruled for more than half of its independent history by the military, whose top brass have tended to be considered untouchable.

Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and was forced out in 2008.

The new government headed by Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf deposed in 1999, has said he should stand trial for treason for subverting the constitution and has appointed a committee to investigate him.

He is also wanted over the death of Baluchistan rebel leader Nawab Akbar Bugti during a military operation in 2006.

Musharraf was barred from running for parliament because of the legal allegations against him and has been under house arrest at his plush villa on the edge of the capital Islamabad since April 19.

Hundreds of police were deployed along the main road leading to the court on Tuesday, as well as on rooftops, as Musharraf's car arrived. On Aug. 6, the court delayed the widely expected indictment because it was too dangerous for Musharraf to attend the proceedings due to threats to his life.

Musharraf's legal team dismissed the indictment.

"These charges are baseless. We are not afraid of the proceedings. We will follow legal procedures in the court," his lawyer Syeda Afshan Adil told AFP.

Bhutto, twice elected prime minister of Pakistan, was assassinated after an election rally, weeks after she returned to Pakistan from years in self-imposed exile in a gun and bomb attack.

There was no public claim of responsibility for her murder.

Musharraf's government blamed the assassination on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement. He was killed in a US drone attack in 2009.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-08-20

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