Benazir Bhutto to stay in exile

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The Independent Online
THE SELF-IMPOSED exile of the Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in Dubai shows no sign of ending.

On Thursday, Pakistan's Supreme Court denied her the opportunity to appeal against her conviction for corruption last month, saying that she had not yet surrendered to the courts. A special "Accountability Bench" of the Lahore High Court sentenced her and her husband to five years.

Her lawyer, Aitjaz Hussain, who is also a leader of her Pakistan People's Party, said he would challenge the Supreme Court's decision.

"Ms Bhutto will certainly return to Pakistan," he added, "but it is too early to say when." He said the court had given him 30 days to appeal against its decision, pronounced by the deputy registrar.

Bhutto was staying with a relative in London when her conviction and sentence were pronounced, but she later flew to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, where her mother and three children live. In Dubai she said: "If the Supreme Court rejects my appeal, I fear I will be murdered in jail."

Her husband, Asif Zardari, is already in prison in Karachi on a charge he strongly denies, of murdering Bhutto's estranged brother.

The court last month also fined the couple pounds 5.3m, and they may face losing the right to sit in parliament.