Pakistan court rejects Musharraf's plea for treatment abroad

AFP , Friday 31 Jan 2014

File Photo: Former President Pervez Musharraf speaks during an interview with Reuters in London, January 16, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

A court trying Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for treason Friday refused to allow him to go abroad for medical treatment, saying it had no authority to lift his travel ban.

The 70-year-old is facing treason charges, which can carry the death penalty, over his imposition of a state of emergency in 2007 while he was president.

Musharraf has been in a military hospital since falling ill with heart trouble while travelling to the special treason tribunal on January 2 and his lawyers had argued he needed specialist treatment abroad.

There had been speculation that he would be allowed to go on medical grounds as part of a deal to head off a clash between the government and the all-powerful military, which is seen as reluctant to have its former chief tried by civilians.

The former general's name is on the official "exit control list", meaning he cannot leave Pakistan.

After hearing medical reports from the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in Rawalpindi, neighbouring Islamabad, where Musharraf is being treated, the court said it was not in its power to let him leave.

"It is not in the jurisdiction of this court to allow him to go abroad for treatment, because his name is on the exit control list," the order read by a court official said.

Musharraf was originally summoned to come before the court on December 24 but has yet to put in an appearance, due to security scares and ill health.

On Friday the court directed him to appear at the next hearing, on February 7, and ordered him to pay bail of 2.5 million rupees or face arrest.

Pakistan's current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was the man Musharraf ousted from power in his 1999 coup, and his lawyers have said the treason case is an attempt to settle old scores through the courts.

Musharraf's spokesman Raza Bokhari condemned Friday's decision.

"In ignoring the expert medical report of a distinguished military hospital, the special treason court has not only shown inhumanity and insensitivity towards General Musharraf, but also has demonstrated unprecedented disregard of the medical profession, principles of basic fundamental rights and preservation of life," he said in a statement.

Despite persistent rumours that a backroom deal would be struck to spirit Musharraf away, the former commando has previously insisted he wants to stay and fight the charges against him.

In addition to treason, Musharraf faces an array of other criminal charges dating back to his 1999-2008 rule, including for the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.

He is Pakistan's first ex-army head to be put on trial. While there has been no public comment on the case from the military, some observers say they are reluctant to have their former chief suffer the indignity of trial in a civilian court.

Sharif's government has repeatedly said it would not let Musharraf leave Pakistan before facing the courts.

Some commentators have complained the Musharraf legal drama is an unnecessary distraction at a time when the country is grappling with resurgent homegrown Taliban militancy.

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