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Court Due To Charge Musharraf With Treason

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf
Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf
A special court in Pakistan is due on February 7 to formally charge former military ruler Pervez Musharraf with high treason in a case that could carry the death penalty or life in prison.

But it remains unclear whether Musharraf will appear in the court for what would be the first treason trial against a former military ruler of the country.

The case has increased tensions between Pakistan’s powerful army and its civilian government.

Musharraf has evaded earlier court appearances with claims of health troubles -- including what he described as a heart problem that manifested itself while he was being transported in a car to the court, which was formed especially to hear his case.

The latest warrant was issued last week. It alleges that Musharraf violated Pakistan’s constitution by imposing emergency rule in November 2007.

Lawyers for the 70-year-old Musharraf have been asking that he be allowed to travel abroad for treatment.

But the court ruled on January 31 that it had no authority to lift a travel ban imposed against Musharraf.

Musharraf also faces an array of other charges related to his 1999-2008 rule, including in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007 and murder charges connected to a 2007 military raid on a fundamentalist mosque.

Musharraf has defended his decision to suspend Pakistan's constitution in 2007.

He has told journalists that the prosecution "smacked of a vendetta" by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government.

Sharif is the same politician that Musharraf ousted as prime minister when he came to power in a 1999 military coup.

After that coup, Sharif was tried for murder and treason and sent into lengthy exile.

Musharraf left Pakistan and lived in self-imposed exile for more than four years after a wave of protests forced him to resign as army chief, call new elections, and step down from office in 2008.

He returned to Pakistan in March in an attempt to make a political comeback. But instead, he found himself facing criminal charges.

With additional reporting by Reuters and AP.