RAWALPINDI: A court in Rawalpindi has formally indicted former military dictator Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday with the murder of former premier Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated in 2007.
“He should be tried,” the public prosecutor, Mohammad Azhar, told reporters after a brief hearing during which the three charges of murder, conspiracy to murder and facilitation of murder were read out to Musharraf.
The indictment of the army chief who seized power in a 1999 coup is an unprecedented event in a country ruled by the military for half of its 66-year history.
Musharraf, who made no public remarks during his appearance, denied all the charges against him, a lawyer from his defence team told Reuters. Journalists were not allowed in the court room for the hearing which lasted just about 20 minutes.
“All the cases against Musharraf are fabricated. He denied all the charges,” said Afshan Adil, the lawyer. The next hearing was set for August 27.
During today’s hearing, Musharraf’s council Ilyas Siddiqui appealed to the court to exempt the former president from appearing before the court in person, citing security threats.
Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) special prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar Ali objected to the request and said Musharraf is a murder accused and can only be exempted on medical grounds.
However, the court after hearing both lawyers exempted the former president from appearing before the court.
Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack after an election rally, weeks after she returned to Pakistan from years in self-imposed exile.
The government at the time blamed Tehreek-e-Taliban militants and Musharraf has said he warned her of the danger she faced.
Hundreds of police were deployed along the main road leading to the court as well as on rooftops as Musharraf’s car arrived.
On August 6, the court delayed the widely expected indictment because it was too dangerous for Musharraf to attend the proceedings due to threats to his life.