Special court cancels Musharraf’s right to defence for non-appearance

A special court in Islamabad on Wednesday canceled former military dictator Pervez Musharraf’s right to defence due to his repeated non-appearance before the court.

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A three-judge bench headed by Justice Tahira Safdar also rejected former president’s plea for adjournment of the hearing of a high treason case against him.

On a complain moved by the government, Musharraf is facing a treason trial under Article 6 of the Constitution as well as Section 2 of the High Treason Act.

During the proceedings, Musharraf’s lawyer Salman Safdar said that the former president was “fighting for his life”, adding that he was not physically or mentally capable of returning the country.

Musharraf’s counsel said that it was embarrassing for him to repeatedly submit requests to adjourn the case’s hearing.

He said that his client was rapidly losing weight, adding that he was unable to walk and used a wheelchair.

Safdar requested for one more chance so that Musharraf could himself appear in court. He said that the former president was having “heart chemotherapy” because of which his health had deteriorated.

Justice Safdar remarked that the Supreme Court had given a verdict, to which the lawyer responded that he was aware of that and requested that the plea be accepted on the basis of compassion.

The bench of the special court asked the lawyer to read the apex court verdict from April 1.

On April 1, the top court had directed the special court to proceed with the trial on the next date of hearing (May 2) and in case the former president surrendered and appeared before it, he would be entitled to record his statement.

On May 02, A three-member bench headed by Justice Tahira Safdar adjourned the case hearing till June 12, after Musharraf’s counsel Barrister Salman Safdar told the court that his client could not travel to Pakistan to attend the hearing due to his medical condition.

As the hearing went underway, the counsel informed the bench that Musharraf was scheduled to arrive in Pakistan Wednesday morning to attend the trial, but could not due to his illness.

“He is ashamed and apologetic for not being able to reach [in time]. He is unable to walk,” the counsel said, adding that he had spent three days with the former president and was “shocked to see that he could barely even speak.”

“The doctors have said it is not safe for him to travel in this condition,” Barrister Safdar said.

The counsel then asked the court to postpone the hearing until after Ramazan.

“The case against Musharraf dates back to 2007. Despite the cases, he returned to the country in 2013. He was indicted in March 2014. He stayed in the country for two years and three months, but the prosecution failed to prove their case,” the lawyer added.

“In the past two years Musharraf has been hospitalised 40 times,” Barrister Safdar continued, and said he could not answer the court’s questions without assistance from his client.

Objecting to the argument, the prosecution contended that the trial could proceed despite Musharraf’s absence.

At this, Justice Tahira Safdar remarked that the former president’s medical reports were also attached along with his plea to adjourn the hearing.

“I cannot comment on the authenticity of the medical reports,” the prosecuting lawyer said.

The court then issued notices to the prosecution and adjourned the hearing till June 12.

In line with the Supreme Court’s directive, the trial court is scheduled to record Musharraf’s statement under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code to complete the treason trial.

The Supreme Court last month had observed that the special court should announce a decision after hearing the prosecution as the suspect would lose his right to defend if he failed to appear before the court on May 2.

The prosecutor’s lawyer Dr Tariq Hassan in his arguments today said that the court had given Musharraf the chance to give his statement through a video link.

He presented arguments regarding Musharraf’s health in response to which Justice Safdar asked: “Are you speaking against his physical health?”

Justice Nazar Akbar asked if he wanted confirmation about Musharraf’s health, which the lawyer denied.

Justice Shahid Karim that they need to look at whether or not to approve the request to adjourn the case. The prosecutor’s lawyer opposed the adjournment.

The three-judge bench rejected Gen Musharraf’s plea to adjourn the case.

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