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Musharraf makes first appearance in Pakistan court

Former Pakistani prime minister Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile] made his first appearance in Pakistani court on Tuesday to answer charges of treason related to his suspension of the constitution and use of emergency powers in 2007. Musharraf has repeatedly delayed appearing in court, first based [Reuters report] on fear of bomb threats and later on his failing health; he was admitted to the hospital for chest pains at the beginning of January. Appearing [BBC report] before a special three-judge panel, Musharraf was able to wave at the judges to acknowledge their presence but did not speak during the proceedings. He was reportedly present in court for only 20 minutes. The court did not yet charge Musharraf but instead indicated that it would decide Friday whether it properly had jurisdiction over a former military officer. Musharraf's lawyers have argued that his case should be tried in a military rather than a civil court. Musharraf has continuously alleged that the charges against him are politically motivated and baseless. The trial is being closely watched for any potential impact on the balance of power in Pakistan between the military, judiciary, and civilian government. If convicted, Musharraf could face the death penalty.

Musharraf has faced a variety of legal troubles since his return to Pakistan from self-imposed exile, though until now it was unclear whether he would ever actually appear in court. He had sought to delay his appearance for medical reasons and requested his travel ban be lifted to go abroad to seek medical treatment, a request the court denied [JURIST report] in January 31, instead issuing a "bailable" arrest warrant. Earlier in January the court rejected [JURIST report] Musharraf's contention that he was too sick to attend proceedings scheduled for January 16 and ordered him to appear, though he ultimately did not do so. Also currently ongoing are proceedings related to Musharraf's involvement in the 2007 Red Mosque killings and the death of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf was arrested [JURIST report] in October for his role in the Red Mosque massacre after nearly six months of house arrest for the charges relating to the death of Bhutto, for which he was formally charged [JURIST report] in August.

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