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Musharraf Declared Fugitive in Benazir Bhutto’s Murder Trial

by AFP

Farooq Naeem—AFP

Five other men accused of being involved in conspiracy to murder acquitted

An Anti-Terrorism Court has declared former president Pervez Musharraf a fugitive in ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s murder trial, ordering his property confiscated, a court official said on Thursday.

Musharraf was charged with Bhutto’s 2007 assassination in 2013, but has been in self-imposed exile in Dubai ever since a travel ban was lifted three years later. The official said he had “absconded.”

The court also acquitted five men who had been accused of being Taliban militants involved in the conspiracy to murder Bhutto, the Muslim world’s first female prime minister, the official said. However, it found two police officers guilty of “mishandling the crime scene,” the court official said, adding they had each been sentenced to 17 years imprisonment and fined Rs. 500,000.

The police officers—Saud Aziz, who was chief of Rawalpindi police at the time, and senior officer Khurram Shahzad—are now the only two people to have been convicted over Bhutto’s assassination.

Shahzad was accused of hosing down the crime scene less than two hours after the assassination took place—an act the United Nations described in a report into the assassination as “fundamentally inconsistent with Pakistani police practice.” Aziz was accused of both giving Shahzad permission to hose down the scene, and of refusing to allow an autopsy of Bhutto’s body to go ahead.

The verdicts are the first to be issued in the case, and come nearly 10 years after Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack during an election rally in Rawalpindi. Musharraf’s government blamed the assassination on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement. He was killed in a U.S. drone attack in 2009.

In 2010, a U.N. report accused Musharraf’s government of failing to give Bhutto adequate protection and said her death could have been prevented.

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