Security scare delays trial for Pakistan’s Musharraf

Security scare delays trial for Pakistan’s Musharraf

ISLAMABAD - Former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf's trial for treason, which had been due to open on Tuesday, was postponed until January 1 after explosives were found near the road he was to take to court.

The 70-year-old had been expected to appear in person before a specially-convened court in the capital Islamabad, after legal efforts to have the tribunal ruled invalid failed.

The treason allegations are the latest in a series of serious criminal charges relating to Musharraf's 1999-2008 rule brought since he returned from exile in March.

His aides and lawyers have dismissed the cases as politically motivated, accusing the government and others of trying to use the courts to settle old scores.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who won a third term in May's general election, was the man Musharraf ousted when he seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

It is the first time in Pakistan's history that a former military ruler has been put on trial for treason and the case puts the government on a collision course with the all-powerful army, which faces the embarrassment of having its former chief tried by civilians.

The treason charges relate to Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule in November 2007 and if found guilty he could face the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Justice Faisal Arab, heading the three-member bench at the special court, adjourned the hearing to January 1 after police found explosives, a detonator and two pistols close to the route Musharraf was due to take from his house to the court.

Muhammad Asjad, the police chief for Chak Shahzad, the Islamabad suburb where Musharraf lives, told AFP the material had not been assembled into a bomb.

Musharraf was the man who led Pakistan into its uneasy alliance with the US in the "war on terror" and the Taliban have made repeated threats to kill him.

After the discovery, his lawyer Anwar Mansoor Khan told the court that the former general would not be able to attend because of serious security threats to his life.

Musharraf is expected to attend the next hearing, where state prosecutor Naseer-ud-din Khan Nayyar told AFP the charges would be read out to him.

The court will also consider two petitions filed by Musharraf's 10-strong legal team challenging the authority of the special court and objecting to the appointment of the prosecutor.

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