Pakistan's Musharraf charged in treason case

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Media caption,

Shumaila Jaffrey describes the scene at the court

A court in Pakistan has charged former military ruler Pervez Musharraf with treason, the first army chief to face such a prosecution.

Mr Musharraf is accused of unlawfully suspending the constitution and instituting emergency rule in 2007.

He pleaded not guilty and has always claimed that the charges against him are politically motivated. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

President from 2001 to 2008, he was one of Pakistan's longest-serving rulers.

He went into self-imposed exile in 2008, returning to Pakistan in March 2013.

He had hoped to lead his party into elections, but was disqualified from standing and found himself fighting an array of charges relating to his time in power.

The 70-year-old has been in hospital since the beginning of the year and reports say he is being treated for high blood pressure.

'Loyal to the country'

The court on Monday also rejected Mr Musharraf's application to leave the country to visit his sick mother in Dubai.

He is currently under house arrest and has been placed on an exit control list restricting certain Pakistani nationals from leaving the country.

Judges rejected his application on the grounds that only the government had the authority to remove him from the list.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Supporters of Mr Musharraf gathered outside the court

When the former president entered the court he was heavily guarded, but nevertheless appeared relaxed, even waving to the audience.

The judge read out five charges to Mr Musharraf.

He pleaded "not guilty" to each of them but also addressed the court with a speech about his services to the country and questioned how he could be called a traitor, declaring that he was a patriot.

"I am being called a traitor, I have been chief of army staff for nine years and I have served this army for 45 years. I have fought two wars and it is 'treason'?" the Agence France-Presse news agency quoted him as saying.

"Is this the way to reward someone for being loyal to the country and for loving the country?" the former president asked the court.

Mr Musharraf insists that he acted within the constitution when he declared a state of emergency in the country in 2007 and that he did not act alone when taking that decision.

Mr Musharraf seized power from Mr Sharif in a coup in 1999. He remained president until 2008, when a democratically elected government came into power.

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