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Pakistan activists charged with treason for protests against emergency rule

[JURIST] Pakistani prosecutors on Thursday charged four activists with treason, the first such charges brought under the declaration of emergency rule [PDF text] implemented by President Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile] on Saturday. The four activists, who are in detention following a series of arrests made this week by Pakistani police, were charged with making anti-Musharraf speeches in the southern city of Karachi. The four activists could be subject to the death penalty if convicted.

Also Thursday, Pakistan state media quoted Musharraf as promising that presidential elections, currently scheduled for January, will be delayed for no more than one month. Thursday's statement is a departure from government statements made earlier this week indicating that the elections could be delayed for as long as one year depending on the duration of the emergency rule. AP has more.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Saturday immediately rejected [JURIST report; order, PDF] Musharraf's declaration of emergency rule, which is similar in effect to martial law, causing Musharraf to dismiss controversial Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry [JURIST news archive] and install a new chief justice [JURIST report]. The new chief justice promptly voided [JURIST report] Chaudhry's efforts to block the emergency order.

On Saturday and Sunday, police detained [JURIST report] hundreds of lawyers, rights activists and opposition figures protesting the emergency orders, and on Monday, fired tear gas at protesters in Lahore [JURIST report]. Pakistani police Tuesday arrested some 50 lawyers [JURIST report] at the Lahore High Court who were involved in the protests. On Wednesday, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto urged supporters to rally [AP report] against emergency rule planned for Friday despite the government's ban on protests and its threat to end any demonstration.

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