Pakistan's Musharraf suffers 'heart problem' on way to court

Soldiers patrol the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) where former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is admitted for treatment in Rawalpindi January 2, 2014. All entry points to the hospital in Rawalpindi are sealed to the public

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Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf is in hospital after his lawyers said he suffered chest pains on his way to court for his treason trial.

The 70-year-old was transferred to the Armed Forces Cardiology Hospital in Rawalpindi and is undergoing tests.

It is the third time the former president has failed to appear in court following two previous security scares.

The treason charges relate to his decision in 2007 to suspend the constitution and impose emergency rule.

Mr Musharraf denies the charges and says all the accusations against him are politically motivated.

He is the first former military ruler to face trial for treason in Pakistan, which has a history of army rule. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to death or life in prison.

He also faces separate charges of murder and restricting the judiciary.

Mr Musharraf is a keen swimmer and former commando thought to be fit for his age. There has been no word from doctors on his condition.

Pervez Musharraf (file image) Pervez Musharraf says the trial is politically motivated

Security around the hospital in Rawalpindi is tight and all entry points closed to the public, witnesses say.

The former general's lawyers had earlier told the special court trying him for treason in Islamabad that he would probably appear before it, as ordered on Thursday.

But his heavily guarded motorcade was diverted to nearby Rawalpindi and one of his lawyers, Khalid Ranjha, said he had developed a "heart problem".

"Pervez Musharraf is a man of strong nerves, but he felt pain in the chest and doctors are examining him," said Mr Ranjha, the Associated Press reported.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan, who was at court, says many people view the reports of his illness with scepticism, as they do the security scares which his defence team say prevented him from appearing in court on 1 January and 24 December.

Nawaz Sharif speaks in Islamabad (12 Jan 2012)

The former general spent much of last year under house arrest on an array of other charges relating to his time in power from 1999-2008, but is now on bail in all those cases.

He runs the risk of being taken back into custody.

The judge gave him an exemption from appearing on Thursday because of the reports about his health. The next hearing is set for Monday.

Charges

The defence team is arguing that Mr Musharraf cannot get a fair trial in Pakistan because current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is "biased" against their client.

Mr Musharraf seized power from Mr Sharif in a coup in 1999. He remained president until 2008, when a democratically elected government forced him to resign.

He left the country soon afterwards to live in self-imposed exile in Dubai and London.

On his return to Pakistan in March 2013, Mr Musharraf hoped he could lead his party into elections but was disqualified from standing.

Correspondents says many Pakistanis believe Mr Sharif's government is using the trial to divert attention from the problems the country is facing, including a struggling economy and continuing sectarian and other attacks.

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