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Pakistan Court Frees Nuclear Scientist from 5-Year House Arrest


A court in Pakistan has freed Abdul Qadeer Khan from house arrest, five years after the founder of the country's nuclear weapons program admitted selling banned nuclear technology.

Islamabad's High Court ruled Friday that Abdul Qadeer Khan is now a free citizen. But the brief, one-page judgment said the terms and conditions of his freedom will remain confidential.

A jubilant Khan met with reporters outside his home in Islamabad, saying he was glad to be free of the restrictions on travel and communication that have loomed over him since 2004.

He also says he had no plans to cooperate with any foreign investigations into his nuclear proliferation network.

"No answer, no comment. I'm not obliged to give answers to anybody," said Khan. "I am obliged only to answer to my government - not to any foreigners or anybody."

Last month the U.S. State Department imposed financial sanctions against Khan and his associates and three companies accused of links to the Khan network. U.S. officials say they believe the network is no longer operating.

Pakistani authorities have never permitted foreign investigators to question him.

The 72-year-old metallurgist is celebrated as a hero in Pakistan as the founder of the country's nuclear weapons program. His efforts led to the successful detonation of a nuclear device in 1998 - which was considered a key tactical victory in its long-running rivalry with India.

In 2004, Khan confessed that he had participated in a secret nuclear weapons proliferation network that sold technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea. He was later pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf and largely confined to his home in Islamabad.

In the last year he gave several interviews to media outlets, recanting his earlier confession and declaring he never was involved in nuclear proliferation. Last July, a court banned him from ever speaking about nuclear proliferation. It is unclear if Friday's ruling allows him to discuss his role in the proliferation network.

Khan said he is not bitter about the restrictions placed on him for the last several years. He said he took comfort in the similar circumstances of President Asif Zardari, who spent years in prison without being convicted of a crime, and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was in exile in Saudi Arabia.

"Mr. Zardari was for eight years inside," said Khan. "And not a single case was proven against him. Nawaz Sharif was sent outside for eight years. So these things happen - we should forget and look forward."

Khan's release comes as Pakistan prepares for senate elections next month, with 50 of the senate's 100 seats open.

Khan says he has no interest in politics, but he would like to work on improving education in Pakistan.

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