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    Pakistan's Musharraf Charged with Murder in Bhutto Killing


    A Pakistani court has charged former military ruler Pervez Musharraf with murder in connection with the 2007 assassination of opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

    Tuesday's indictment of Mr. Musharraf by a court in Rawalpindi marks the first time a former Pakistani military chief has been charged with a crime.

    Mr. Musharraf took power in a 1999 coup and later served as president until resigning under threat of impeachment by his opponents in 2008 and going into exile.

    Prosecutors charged him with murder, conspiracy to murder and facilitation of murder in the gun and bomb attack that killed Ms. Bhutto as she left a political rally in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.

    They did not specify how Mr. Musharraf is suspected of involvement in that incident.

    The former Pakistani leader appeared in court and pleaded not guilty, while his defense team represented by lawyer Afshan Adil dismissed the charges as false, fabricated and politically motivated.


    "Of all the offenses that he has been charged with, not a single case is applicable to the [former] president. I don't know how these proceedings are being carried out against him."


    American lobbyist Mark Siegel, a former Bhutto speech writer, has accused Mr. Musharraf of threatening her in a phone call before she returned to Pakistan from exile in October 2007. Siegel's U.S. law firm Locke Lord declined to comment when asked by VOA for his reaction to the indictment.

    The court adjourned the case until August 27.



    In a March 2012 article for the New York Daily News, Siegel said he believes Mr. Musharraf conspired to kill Ms. Bhutto because her party appeared on the verge of a landslide victory against his supporters in a 2008 parliamentary election.

    A U.N. commission of inquiry into the assassination released a report in 2010, saying Mr. Musharraf's government "failed in its responsibility" to protect Ms. Bhutto after she returned from exile with his consent to compete in that election.

    Mr. Musharraf blamed the assassination on Taliban militants and said he warned her of militant threats to her safety. A Pakistani government investigation released in 2012 concluded that Mr. Musharraf knew of the assassination plot in advance and ordered the destruction of evidence.

    The former president returned to Pakistan in March after almost four years in self-imposed exile in a bid to resurrect his political career. But, he has faced a series of legal problems since then.

    In the first major setback, Pakistani courts barred Mr. Musharraf from running in May's parliamentary election. In another blow, the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif began investigating him for treason on suspicion of violating the constitution multiple times while in power.

    Mr. Sharif's party won the May election, returning to the prime minister's post that he held until Mr. Musharraf ousted him in the 1999 coup and sent him into exile. Mr. Sharif returned to Pakistan in 2007 with Mr. Musharraf's consent and served in the opposition until his recent election victory.

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