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Musharraf skips court appearance citing security threats

Musharraf skips court appearance citing security threats

Islamabad: Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf Wednesday again failed to appear before a special court for a hearing in a high treason case against him, with his lawyers citing security threats.

A three-member bench had summoned Musharraf to formally frame charges of high treason against him. However, his defence lawyers told the court that the former president could not appear for lack of security, Xinhua reported.

Police earlier claimed to have arrested two suspects from a roadside restaurant on Musharraf's route to court. They also said they had recovered explosives near Musharraf's house and on the route to the court.

Senior police officers told the court that a bullet-proof vehicle had been provided for Musharraf, but added the police did not have bomb-proof vehicles.

Justice Faisal Arab, who heads the special court, was unhappy with Musharraf's absence and said the court would issue fresh orders for his appearance. He remarked that courts continue to operate during wars, adding Musharraf cannot avoid the hearing because of security threats.

Musharraf's defence lawyer, Ahmed Raza Kasuri, told reporters that security remained a major issue that stopped his client from personal appearance in the court.

Musharraf also did not appear in the previous hearing Dec 24.

The government had initiated treason charges against the former military ruler for suspending, subverting and abrogating the constitution, imposing an emergency in the country in November 2007 and detaining judges of the superior courts. Legal experts say the charges carry death penalty or life imprisonment.

Musharraf's lawyers raised objections at the court and said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had personally nominated judges and had bypassed the cabinet.

The lawyers have also requested the court to delay the hearing for five weeks. They had earlier tried to stop the trial on the plea that the special court has no power to try a former army chief and that a military court can try him under the army act.

Sharif announced in June the initiation of the high treason case against the former military president. The decision had evoked mixed reaction as critics were of the view that Pakistan faces several serious challenges and cannot afford such a trial for the moment.

Musharraf had taken over power in a bloodless coup when he dismissed Sharif's government in 1999.

The 70-year-old former army chief currently lives in his farmhouse in Islamabad after getting bail in three high profile cases, including the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Musharraf, who resigned in 2008 and went into exile, returned to Pakistan last March to take part in parliamentary elections. However, a court disqualified him from standing.


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