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Pakistan high court orders action against chief justice's son, real estate tycoon

The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] on Thursday ordered [order, PDF] that the Attorney General take action to bring the Chief Justice's son, Dr. Arsalan Iftikhar, and real estate businessman, Malik Riaz Hussain, to trial for alleged bribery and unlawful dealings. This order ended the Supreme Court's suo moto case involving the two men, in which Iftikhar was accused of promising favorable rulings in pending cases against Riaz in return for large amounts of money. The case was initiated on June 6, after numerous media outlets reported that Riaz had been blackmailed by Iftikhar, and the Supreme Court issued a suo moto notice to the two men. The Supreme Court noted in its order that any allegations of involvement by the court or Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry [JURIST news archive] were refuted by Riaz's testimony that he never had direct contact with anyone on the Court and he was not given any favorable treatment in the cases against him. It noted, however, that there is still a great public interest in transparency and accountability to be served by bringing the men to trial. The court also noted that nothing in its order is to be construed as a guilty verdict against the men, as official fact-finding and giving of the initial verdict are the job of the trial court, but that the evidence presented does warrant initiation of action against them.

The court initiated contempt of court proceedings [JURIST report] against Hussain earlier this week. Pakistan has a history of corruption that it is trying to get past, which the Supreme Court mentioned in its order as one reason it is important to take legal action against Iftikhar and Riaz. In April, the Supreme Court convicted [JURIST report] Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani of contempt of court for disobeying a court order to open corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. In December, the Supreme Court formed a judicial committee [JURIST report] to investigate a secret memo from an anonymous source in the Pakistani government to a US admiral asking for help in preventing a suspected military coup. Pakistan's former attorney general resigned in 2010 [JURIST report] amid controversy surrounding a court order to investigate the president for corruption. In 2008, corruption charges were dropped [JURIST report] against former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto following her assasination.

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