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Pakistan court overrules Musharraf death sentence

January 13, 2020

The higher court annulled Pervez Musharraf's death sentence, saying that the special tribunal that handed down the sentence was unconstitutional. The exiled former military dictator was sentenced to death last month.

Ex-President Pervez Musharraf
Image: Reuters/M. Khursheed

The death sentence for Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf was annulled on Monday after a higher court overruled the original ruling.

The High Court in the eastern city of Lahore ruled that the formation of the special tribunal that handed down the sentence was unconstitutional and "illegal," Musharraf's legal team as well as government prosecutors said.

"The filing of the complaint, the constitution of the court, the selection of the prosecution team are illegal, declared to be illegal ... And at the end of the day the full judgment has been set aside," Ishtiaq A. Khan, the prosecutor representing the government, told news agency AFP.

Prosecutors can still file a new case against Musharraf with the approval of the federal Cabinet.

Landmark ruling against ex-military leader

Musharraf, who lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai, was sentenced to death in absentia by the tribunal in December on treason charges concerning his decision to suspend the constitution and impose a state of emergency in 2007.

Pakistan's ex-president Pervez Musharraf
Musharraf's sentence was consider a landmark ruling for Pakistan's judiciary, which usually avoids going against the militaryImage: Getty Images/AFP/A. Qureshi

Two out of three judges on the special court found Musharraf guilty, marking the first time that a former leader of the armed forces faced such a sentence in Pakistan, where the military maintains a strong influence.

Pakistan's military said in December that it stood by the 76-year-old retired general, saying that the decision had caused a "lot of pain and anguish" among its ranks.

Facing further charges

Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, overthrowing the government of then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He became a key ally for the US in its "war on terror" after the September 11 terror attacks in 2001 and escaped several assassination attempts.

His leadership faced no serious challenges until he tried to purge the nation's judiciary and avoid a legal challenge to his rule in March 2007. The move sparked massive nationwide protests and months of turmoil that led to the imposition of a state of emergency. Musharraf resigned in 2008 to avoid impeachment.

Musharraf also faces other serious charges in Pakistan, some of which are related to the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was killed in a 2007 suicide attack. In 2017, a court declared him a fugitive and demanded that he be arrested if he ever returned to the country.

rs/rt (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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