Mar. 31, 2014
(CNN) — A Special Court in Pakistan has charged former military ruler Pervez Musharraf with high treason — a crime that carries the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Musharraf, who ruled the country following a 1999 coup until 2008, faced a total of five charges during the hearing at the court in Islamabad Monday, including three counts of subverting, suspending and changing the country’s constitution, sacking Pakistan’s chief justice and imposing emergency rule. He pleaded “not guilty” to each of the charges.
Monday’s hearing took place amid tight security, with thousands of police and security forces lining the route to the court. In an unexpected twist, the retired army general was represented by a new lawyer, with no reason yet given for the change.
Musharraf went into self-imposed exile in 2008, in London and more recently in Dubai, after standing down as president. He returned to Pakistan last year with the aim of running in the country’s national elections. But his plans unraveled as he became entangled in a web of court cases relating to his time in power.
In 2007, Musharraf declared a state of emergency, suspended Pakistan’s constitution, replaced the chief judge and blacked out independent TV outlets.
Musharraf said he did so to stabilize the country and to fight rising Islamist extremism. The action drew sharp criticism from the United States and democracy advocates. Pakistanis openly called for his removal.
Under pressure from the West, Musharraf later lifted the state of emergency and called elections in which his party fared badly.
Musharraf stepped down in August 2008 after the governing coalition began taking steps to impeach him. Prosecutors say Musharraf violated Pakistan’s constitution by imposing the state of emergency.