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Pakistan lawyers protest continued detention of former chief justice

[JURIST] Pakistani lawyers demonstrated in Islamabad Thursday to protest the continued detention of ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry [JURIST news archive]. The government of Pakistan has kept Chaudhry and several other judges and lawyers under preventative detention since President Musharraf declared emergency rule [text; JURIST report] on November 3. According to a CBC News report, a lawyer present at the protest blamed Musharraf for many of the country's problems and said "when there is a free election, all the militancy will stop." With general elections slated for Feb. 18, opposition leaders have said that without an independent judiciary to supervise the vote, there is likely to be rigging.

Earlier this week, a report [text] by Pakistan's The News daily suggested the government may be skirting constitutional limits on detentions [JURIST report]. The Pakistani constitution requires that preventative detention be limited to 90 days unless a review board has extended the detention. Chaudhry has been under virtual house arrest [JURIST report] since at least November 5, when an Army major locked him in his residence and took the keys. The 90-day detention period expires January 31, but the government has not referred his case to a review board, instead saying that because Chaudhry and other deposed judges are not being held under court-ordered detention they therefore do not qualify for review. The Pakistan Bar Council continues to protest the removal of Chaudhry and refuses to recognize the legitimacy of replacement judges who had taken oaths of office under President Pervez Musharraf's now-abrogated Provisional Constitutional Order [text]. CBC News has more.

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