Pakistan court summons Musharraf in high treason case

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - A Pakistani special court on Friday summoned former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to appear in a high treason case, an offence that could see him face death or life in prison, a government prosecutor said.

"Musharraf has been ordered to appear before the court on December 24," Mr Akram Sheikh, the head of the government prosecution team told AFP by telephone.

It will be the first time in Pakistan's history that a former military dictator will face a treason trial.

Pakistan's top court in November accepted a government request to set up a special tribunal to try Musharraf for high treason.

The three judges were later chosen by the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is now on an unprecedented collision course with the all-powerful military.

A government official said the special court, headed by Justice Faisal Arbab, acceded to the government request to try Musharraf during the hearing on Friday, after accepting a government charge-sheet against the former ruler.

According to the Pakistani constitution, anyone found guilty of abrogating, subverting, suspending and holding in abeyance the constitution shall be guilty of committing the offence of High Treason.

The treason accusation relates to Musharraf's decision in 2007 to impose emergency rule shortly before the Supreme Court was due to decide on the legality of his re-election as president a month earlier, while he was still army chief.

Musharraf overthrew the government of Mr Nawaz Sharif - elected to power again in May this year - in a bloodless military coup in October 1999, but a year later the Supreme Court validated the take-over.

During the 2007 period of emergency rule he suspended the constitution and parliament, and sacked top judges who declared his actions unconstitutional and illegal.

Musharraf faces an array of criminal charges dating back to his 1999-2008 rule, including for the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.

Despite being on bail in all other charges, Musharraf remains under guard at his Islamabad farmhouse because of Taleban threats to his life, and is unable to leave Pakistan as his name appears on a government control list.

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