Benazir Bhutto death: Pakistan ex-military leader Pervez Musharraf charged with 2007 murder of prime minister

Decision by marks the first time Musharraf, or any former army chief in Pakistan, has been charged with a crime

Authorities in Pakistan have formally charged the country's former military ruler over the murder of Benazir Bhutto, who twice served as prime minister and was assassinated while campaigning to secure a third term.

In the latest set-back to former dictator Pervez Musharraf, the one-time army chief was today indicted on three counts over the murder of Ms Bhutto, who died in a gun and suicide attack in December 2007.

The move to bring charges against a former army chief is unprecedented in a country ruled for more than half of its life by the military.

The charges relate to one of a series of cases that Mr Musharraf has faced since returning from self-imposed exile earlier this year. He seized power in a coup in 1999 and was forced out in 2008 following an election won by Ms Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party.

“He was charged with murder, criminal conspiracy for murder and facilitation for murder,” public prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar told AFP at the anti-terrorism court hearing the case in Rawalpindi.

Mr Musharraf, 69, who was reportedly bundled into the court amid high security, denied the charges and the case was adjourned until 27 August.

He has been under house arrest at his home on the edge of the capital, Islamabad, since April 19.

Officials had said threats against his life were too severe earlier earlier this month for him to appear in court to face the charges.

“The charges were read out to him in the court. He denied the charges,” said Mr Azhar.

“The case has been adjourned until 27 August for evidence to be brought.”

Mr 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,” said his lawyer, Syeda Afshan Adil.

Scores of security forces guarded the area around the court in Rawalpindi, the city where Ms Bhutto was killed on 27 December, 2007, and roads were sealed off Mr Musharraf's appearance.

The indictment follows speculation about the possibility of a behind-the-scenes deal that could allow the former military chief to leave Pakistan without facing the courts and embarrassing the military.

There was no public claim of responsibility for her murder. Mr Musharraf's government blamed the assassination on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement. He was killed in a US drone attack in 2009.

The Bhutto case is one in a series of court battles that Mr Musharraf has faced over allegations dating back to his 1999-2008 rule, since he returned in March from four years of self-imposed exile.

AFP said the new government headed by Nawaz Sharif, who Musharraf deposed in 1999, believes he should stand trial for treason for subverting the constitution and has appointed a committee to investigate him.

The offence carries the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Mr Musharraf was arrested after returning from exile to stand in the May elections won by Mr Sharif. He was barred from running for parliament because of the legal allegations against him.

He is also wanted over the death of Baluchistan rebel leader Nawab Akbar Bugti during a military operation in 2006.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Microsoft Gold partner, our c...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum