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Protests Outside Pakistan Supreme Court Turn Bloody


There has been another day of anti-government protests outside Pakistan's Supreme Court. Police used clubs and bamboo sticks against the crowd, and the opposition says some activists were arrested to prevent them from attending the rally. From Islamabad, VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand reports on the latest show of support for the country's ousted chief justice.

Several protesters received minor wounds after clashing with police on Wednesday.

The violence erupted as opposition activists struggled to push past police guarding the Supreme Court building in central Islamabad.

More than 1,000 people joined the rally to support the country's ousted chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry.

Opposition groups accuse Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf of dismissing the judge to reassert control over the country's judicial system ahead of national elections, which are expected some time in the next 12 months.

Inside the Supreme Court building, Chaudhry was appealing his case in front of a five-member judicial council. The hearings were adjourned until later this week.

President Musharraf suspended Chaudhry March 9, citing unspecified allegations of abuse of power.

Farahtullah Babar is a senator and spokesman for the opposition Pakistan People's Party. He says the standoff has energized the party at the grass roots level and will remain a potent political weapon unless the judge is reinstated.

"Now as the date for the general election draws nearer the political activity will also step up," he said.

President Musharraf insists the judge's dismissal was both constitutional and non-political.

He has also promised to abide by the judicial council's final judgment on the case.

Opposition leaders say the government is acting behind the scenes to control media coverage of the crisis and limit public protests.

The Pakistan People's Party claimed that many of its supporters were arrested overnight Tuesday in major cities throughout the country.

And earlier this week, a leading television news channel said government regulators threatened to revoke the station's license unless it moderated its coverage of the controversial case.

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