Pervez Musharraf: Death penalty for former Pakistan leader thrown out

Staff and agencies
Mohammad Azhar Siddique, center, a lawyer for former Pakistani President and military ruler Pervez Musharraf, and other lawyers make a victory sign after the court decision in Lahore Jan 13 2020: AP

A Pakistani court has overturned the death sentence given to the country's ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf, a former close US ally in the war against terror.

The Lahore High Court ruled that the special tribunal formed to try the ex-president was not legal.

Musharraf's defence team had petitioned the high court following the tribunal's conviction last December that the former army general was guilty of imposing emergency laws in violation of the constitution during his rule.

Musharraf seized power in 1999 when he ousted the elected government of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a military coup.

Eight years later, he imposed emergency rule and placed several key judges under house arrest.

The move drew nationwide condemnation and protests that led to his resignation in 2008.

“The death sentence given to Pervez Musharraf stands quashed after today's court order,” Pakistani prosecutor Ishtiaq Khan told reporters.

Musharraf's lawyer Mr Azhar Sadique hailed the court's verdict, but said “let us see how government reacts”.

He claimed that Musharraf was a political target and had been falsely charged with treason by the government in 2014 after former premier Sharif returned to power.

Musharraf made Pakistan a key ally of the United States in its war on terror following the September 11 2001 attacks.

He allowed Nato to transport military equipment to land-locked Afghanistan through Pakistan and the US to use Pakistan's air bases for logistic support.

Supporters of former Pakistani military ruler General Pervez Musharraf protest a court's death sentence decision, in Karachi Wednesday Jan 1 2020 (AP/Ikram Suri)

The conviction and death sentence handed down to Musharraf in December was heavily criticised by Pakistan's powerful military and the ex-ruler's All Pakistan Muslim League opposition party.

On Monday, Musharraf told Pakistan's ARY news channel that he was “happy” about the hearing's outcome.

“As far as my health is concerned, I am now feeling better,” he added.

Musharraf's health last month deteriorated and he was allowed to leave detention for treatment in hospital. His spokeswoman Ms Mehrene Malik Adam said the Lahore court had delivered “justice” in a case “which was based on false allegations”.

Musharraf says the special court that tried him in intervals from 2014 to 2019 rejected his requests to record a statement in Dubai.

He had been living there since 2016, when he left Pakistan to receive medical treatment.

A Pakistani court ousted ex-premier Sharif in 2017 on corruption charges.

He is currently staying in London for medical treatment on bail.

Associated Press

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