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Ex-Pakistan leader Musharraf charged in Bhutto assassination

Pakistan's ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf has been formally indicted for the murder of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. It is the first time he, or any former Pakistani army chief, has been charged with a crime.

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

Musharraf, 69, took power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and was forced out in 2008. The former army commando denied all charges against him, his legal team said, and made no remarks during his brief appearance. The case was adjourned until August 27.

Bhutto, Pakistan's former prime minister, was assassinated in a gun and suicide attack at an election rally in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. There was no public claim of responsibility for her killing. Musharraf's government, who was accused of not doing enough to protect Bhutto, blamed Pakistani Taliban militants.

Musharraf has been under house arrest since April 19 and officials said death threats against him earlier this month were too serious for him to appear in court. The latest indictment is one of a number of cases he has faced since returning from a self-imposed exile earlier this year.

In addition to the Bhutto trial, Musharraf is also involved a case surrounding 2007 detention of judges and the death of a Baluch nationalist leader. Pakistan's new government led by Nawaz Sharif, who was deposed by Musharraf in 1999, says the embattled ex-leader should also be tried for treason and subverting the constitution.

dr/hc (Reuters, AP, AFP)