ISLAMABAD- Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf arrived in court on Tuesday for the first time to face charges in a treason case he has denounced as a score-settling exercise by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The 70-year-old arrived in a heavily protected cavalcade of at least half a dozen vehicles at the National Library in Islamabad where the court has been holding hearings, an AFP photographer said.
No former military leader has appeared in court before, and the trial is seen as a test of the supremacy of civilian rule in a country governed for more than half its history by the army after three coups.
Musharraf faces possible treason charges, which can carry the death penalty, over his suspension of the constitution and imposition of a state of emergency in 2007 while he was president.
He was first ordered to appear before the tribunal on December 24, but had missed repeated hearings since then due to bomb scares and health problems that saw him complain of a heart ailment.
Musharraf has challenged the civilian court’s right to try a former army chief, saying he is entitled to be dealt with by a military tribunal.
He has accused Prime Minister Sharif, whom he ousted in a 1999 coup, of waging a “vendetta” and has asked for permission to go abroad for medical treatment, which has been refused.
Sharif came to power after elections in May last year in the first transfer of power from one elected government to another after a full term.
Musharraf has endured a torrid time since returning to Pakistan in March last year on an ill-fated mission to run in the general election.
Almost as soon as he landed he was barred from contesting the vote and hit with a barrage of legal cases dating back to his 1999-2008 rule.
The charges against him include the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.
So far, nothing has come of rumors that a backroom deal would be struck to get Musharraf out of the country before trial, to avoid a destabilizing clash between the government and the powerful armed forces.