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Pakistan's Exiled Bhutto, Husband Receive Suspended Sentences in Switzerland Trial - 2003-08-05

Authorities in Switzerland have given Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband suspended six-month jail sentences in a money-laundering case.

The charges against former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto were originally filed by her political successor after she was ousted from office on corruption charges in 1996.

Ms. Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari were accused of receiving millions of dollars in illegal commissions for awarding a contract to a Swiss company. The case against the couple in Switzerland was filed after Pakistan asked for help in investigating allegations that the laundered money was being kept in their Swiss accounts.

Ms. Bhutto's lawyer, Farooq Naek, said that a Swiss court passed an order late last month sentencing Ms. Bhutto and her husband to six months in jail and a fine of $50,000 each. The order, however, suspended the sentences. Mr. Naek said the order was communicated to the Swiss government on Monday.

"We would file an appeal against it and have it suspended. The moment you file an appeal it will be quashed automatically. Then it will be up to the [Swiss] general attorney to decide whether the matter should be sent to the court or not and then the hearing would take place on this aspect," Mr. Naek said.

A special anti-corruption court in Pakistan convicted Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Zardari on related charges in 1999. But the Supreme Court overturned that verdict two years later. The country's highest court ruled that the conviction was biased and ordered a re-trial.

Ms. Bhutto has been living in exile in London and Dubai since 1999 and has been convicted for not appearing in the Pakistani court for the re-trial. Ms. Bhutto denies the charges against her. Pakistani authorities have detained her husband ever since she was removed from power in 1996.