1:35 am - Tuesday November 10, 2015

Musharraf challenges treason trial in civilian court

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Musharraf challenges treason trial in civilian court
Musharraf challenges treason trial in civilian court

Pakistan’s former ruler Pervez Musharraf on Saturday challenged the formation of a special court to try him for high treason, saying he had imposed emergency in 2007 as Army Chief and could not be tried by a civilian court.

“We have filed a writ petition in the Islamabad High Court challenging the formation of the special court. They are not competent to try Musharraf,” Mohammad Ali Saif, chief of his legal team, said.

The move came three days before the 70-year-old former President was to appear before the special court.

This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that a former military dictator is facing trial for treason. If convicted, Gen. Musharraf could face either life imprisonment or the death penalty.

“Being an Army officer, the Pakistan Army Act 1952 is applicable to him,” Mr. Saif told PTI, explaining why the special court was not competent to try Gen. Musharraf.

The writ petition said Gen. Musharraf took the decision to impose the emergency on November 3, 2007, while he was Army Chief. It said the decision was not an individual act and hence cannot be tried alone.

The petition stated that the government is pursuing Gen. Musharraf’s cases to further a political agenda.

Gen. Musharraf’s legal representatives in London have already submitted a report to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and have appealed to the U.S., the U.K. and Saudi Arabia to help the former military ruler.

His legal team has called on the international community, in particular the British, the U.S. and Saudi governments to intervene in support of Gen. Musharraf who has provided immense assistance to the West in its “war on terror”.

The special court was set up by the Pakistan government to try Gen. Musharraf for high treason for suspending the constitution in 2007.

The former President is charged with abrogating, subverting, suspending, holding in abeyance and attempting to conspire against the 1973 Constitution by declaring emergency and overthrowing the superior judiciary.

On November 17, 2013 the government decided to initiate treason proceedings against Gen. Musharraf.

Attorney-General Munir Malik has said there is strong evidence against Gen. Musharraf and he could be sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

The government recently finalised its charge-sheet, cataloguing five charges against Gen. Musharraf.

Gen. Musharraf came to power in 1999 by toppling a government led by current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and ruled till 2008, when he was forced to resign after being threatened with impeachment.

He lived in self-exile for about five years and returned to Pakistan in March but was hauled to court in different cases, including one over the 2007 assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto.

Gen. Musharraf has secured bail in four major cases against him but the trial for treason poses the biggest challenge to him.

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