A court in Islamabad has found former Pakistani military ruler General Pervez Musharraf guilty of high treason and has sentenced him to death.
The three-member bench of the special court announced the verdict in the long-drawn out high treason case against Musharraf after hearing final arguments today.
The case entered around Musharraf suspending the constitution in 2007 and imposing emergency rule – a move which sparked protests. He resigned in 2008 to avoid the threat of impeachment.
The former military chief is currently in Dubai and was admitted to a hospital following the deterioration of his health earlier this month. In a video statement from his hospital bed, he called the treason case “absolutely baseless.”
“I have served my country for 10 years. I have fought for my country. This [treason] is the case in which I have not been heard and I have been victimised,” he said.
Musharraf came to power after ousting then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a 1999 coup. But in an infamous purge in 2007, Musharraf imposed a state of emergency and placed several key judges under house arrest in Islamabad and elsewhere in Pakistan.
Serving as president until 2008, Gen Musharraf survived numerous assassination attempts and plots against him during his time in power. He is best known internationally for his role in the US “War on Terror,” which he supported after the 9/11 attacks despite domestic opposition.
But when Nawaz Sharif was elected prime minister in 2013 he initiated a treason trial against Gen Musharraf and in March 2014 the former general was charged for high treason.
Gen Musharraf argued the case was politically motivated and that the actions he took in 2007 were agreed by the government and cabinet. But his arguments were turned down by the courts and he was accused of acting illegally.
The indictment of Gen Musharraf in 2014 for treason was a highly significant moment in a country where the military has held sway for much of its independent history.
Many of Pakistan’s army chiefs have either ruled the country directly after coups, as Gen Musharraf did, or wielded significant influence over policymaking during periods of civilian rule.
But Gen Musharraf was the first army chief to be charged with such a crime and the powerful military have watched the case carefully.
It said the court ruling had been “received with a lot of pain and anguish by rank and file of the Pakistan Armed Forces”.
“An ex-Army Chief, Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee and President of Pakistan, who has served the country for over 40 years, fought wars for the defence of the country can surely never be a traitor,” a statement said.