Pervez Musharraf indicted over Benazir Bhutto’s assassination
Pervez Musharraf has been indicted in Pakistan on three charges over the 2007 assassination of opposition leader and former PM Benazir Bhutto.
Prosecutors said the Pakistani ex-President was charged with murder, criminal conspiracy to murder and facilitation of murder.
Pervez Musharraf made no public remarks at the hearing but denies the charges. The case was adjourned until 27 August.
Benazir Bhutto was killed at an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi in December 2007.
Pervez Musharraf, who returned to Pakistan from self-imposed exile earlier this year, is currently under house arrest.
But he appeared in court in Rawalpindi amid tight security. Six others were indicted along with Pervez Musharraf, including four suspected militants and two senior police officials. The court set the next hearing for 27 August.
Pervez Musharraf’s legal team dismissed the indictment: “These charges are baseless. We are not afraid of the proceedings. We will follow legal procedures in the court,” his lawyer, Syeda Afshan Adil, told the Agence France-Presse news agency.
Correspondents say although many expected Pervez Musharraf to be charged, the move is unprecedented. In a country which has been ruled by the army for more than half of its existence, no serving or past military chief has ever been indicted for a crime.
Pervez Musharraf has consistently maintained that all charges against him are politically motivated.
He first came to power in 1999 when he ousted Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup. Pervez Musharraf ruled the country for nine years before being voted out and then he left Pakistan to live in self-imposed exile in Dubai and London.
The former military ruler returned to Pakistan earlier this year in the hope that he could lead his party into elections, but was disqualified from standing and found himself under house arrest fighting a series of charges relating to his time in power.
These include charges relating to the murder of a Baloch tribal leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti, in 2006 and his attempt to sack the entire higher judiciary in November 2007.
Nawaz Sharif is now back in power having emphatically won elections earlier this year. His government has said that it also plans to put Pervez Musharraf on trial for treason.
Benazir Bhutto’s assassination at an election rally in Rawalpindi in December 2007 was blamed by Pervez Musharraf’s government on the Taliban.
A 2010 UN report said Benazir Bhutto’s death could have been prevented and that Pervez Musharraf’s government failed to provide enough protection – at the time his aides dismissed the report as a “pack of lies”.