ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf arrived in court to face treason charges on Tuesday, a victory for the country’s increasingly assertive judiciary after months of delays.
Musharraf, 70, faces the death penalty if found guilty of charges related to his suspension of the constitution and imposition of emergency rule in 2007, when he was trying to extend his rule as president.
Musharraf, who has been in hospital for the past month after suffering chest pains, stood up when the judge entered and gave him a small wave but did not speak.
Judge Faisal Arab, who heads the special panel of three judges, did not charge Musharraf and said he would first examine challenges raised by the defense.
“We are inclined to first decide about the jurisdiction of this court, and if we decide that the jurisdiction is valid, the accused can be called again,” he said.
After two bomb scares prevented him from appearing, Musharraf was taken to hospital on January 2 while on his way to court. Since then, he has been at a military hospital in the city of Rawalpindi, near Islamabad.
The case is being closely watched for any impact on the relationship between Pakistan’s three power centers – the historically powerful military, an increasingly independent judiciary and the civilian government, led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Some observers are concerned that the trial could anger the army, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half its history since independence in 1947.
Musharraf recently told reporters the whole army supported him though the military leadership has given no indication that it might intervene in the trial.
He has repeatedly said the trial is a politically motivated vendetta. He ousted Sharif in a coup in 1999 and forced him into exile, but eight years later Sharif returned and won a landslide victory in a general election in May.