Pakistani court orders Musharraf opponent released from prison

August 04, 2007|By Los Angeles Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Adding to the intense political pressure on President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's Supreme Court ordered yesterday the release of an important opposition figure who has been imprisoned since 2004 after being convicted of inciting mutiny.

The order to release Javed Hashmi is the latest setback for Musharraf, who is struggling to retain his positions as army general and the country's political leader.

The three-judge panel that made the ruling was chaired by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who emerged victorious from a months-long showdown with Musharraf.

In March, the Pakistani leader suspended Chaudhry, who is expected to be a significant impediment to Musharraf's plans to have parliament elect him to another five-year term as president before legislative elections that are to be held by January.

The Supreme Court reinstated Chaudhry in July and ordered misconduct charges against him dropped. The case generated street protests that turned into a pro-democracy movement.

Yesterday's decision was also seen as a slap at the powerful Pakistani military, which for years has intimidated its critics.

Hashmi was convicted of circulating a letter, purportedly written by Pakistani military men, that was critical of Musharraf's alliance with the United States.The government said the document was a forgery.

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