PESHAWAR: A court on Monday charged a radical Islamic cleric, who once brokered a Taliban peace deal in the Swat valley, with treason and murder, lawyers said.
Sufi Mohammad, father-in-law of Maulana Fazlullah, the leader of a Taliban insurgency that paralysed the northwestern valley from late 2007 until a military offensive in the spring of 2009, was arrested two years ago.
He is now set to go on trial in an anti-terrorism court in Swat, held behind closed doors in a maximum security prison in Peshawar over security fears.
“Today, the court framed murder and treason charges on Sufi Mohammad and his 23 followers,” defence lawyer Majeed Adil Majeed told AFP.
“He and his followers broke the law by attacking a police station, killing 11 people, including nine paramilitary and two policemen, and attacked government buildings, which is treason” Majeed said.
Mohammad has refused to defend himself in court as he does not recognise them and Majeed took on his counsel on orders from the judge.
Arshad Abdullah, law minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, confirmed the indictment.
Fazlullah, who has a Rs50 million price on his head, was the architect of an uprising that marked the only time that a district under government control has effectively slipped into hands of the Taliban.
At the time, he led thousands of supporters, a mixture of hardcore ideologues and disenfranchised young men, in a brutal campaign beheading opponents, burning schools and fighting against government troops.
Security officials say Fazlullah fled into eastern Afghanistan after the army crushed the Taliban uprising in Swat in 2009.
Under a deal brokered by Mohammad, the government agreed to allow the implementation of Islamic law in Swat once violence had stopped but Taliban militants led by Fazllulah refused to lay down arms and undermined the deal.
Troops quelled the uprising in late April 2009 after the Taliban advanced to within 100 kilometres of Islamabad.