Updated December 17, 2019 21:56:02
Former military dictator Pervez Musharraf has been sentenced to death by a Pakistani court on charges of high treason and subverting the constitution.
Pakistan's anti-terrorism court handed the sentence down on Tuesday, a senior government official said.
"Pervez Musharraf has been found guilty of Article 6 for violation of the constitution of Pakistan," government law officer Salman Nadeem said.
A Pakistani court first indicted the former military ruler for treason in 2014 on charges relating to his 2007 imposition of emergency rule.
Musharraf first seized power after ousting prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a 1999 coup, and declared a state of emergency in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, on November 3, 2007.
The Supreme Court had been about to rule on the legality of his re-election as president a month earlier.
Musharraf arrested and sacked the country's top judges, including the chief justice, who challenged his decision.
Under the emergency, all civil liberties, human rights and democratic processes were suspended, from November 2007 to February 2008.
The final years of his rule were marked by struggles with the judiciary stemming from his wish to remain head of the army while also being president.
In an infamous purge in 2007, Musharraf placed several key judges under house arrest, which sparked protests across the country, forcing him to resign in 2008 to avoid impeachment.
A spokesman for former prime minister Mr Sharif, Ahsan Iqbal, praised Tuesday's ruling, saying Musharraf deserved the death sentence because he had ousted an elected government.
"We welcome this court ruling," Mr Iqbal said, adding that the judges had done justice to a former dictator.
Musharraf has been living outside of Pakistan in Dubai, with media reports claiming the 76-year-old has been on self-imposed exile.
While Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates do not have an extradition treaty and it is said Emirati authorities are unlikely to arrest him, if he were to return to Pakistan he would have the right to challenge his conviction in court.
The ruling by a three-judge panel was not unanimous, as one of the judges had opposed the death sentence, according to Akhtar Sheikh, one of Musharraf's lawyers.
After the sentence was announced, Pakistan's Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan told reporters that Prime Minister Imran Khan's Government would "review in detail" the verdict before commenting on it.
Many of Musharraf's supporters took to Twitter to express their discomfort over the sentence.
Earlier this month, through a video statement from his hospital bed, Musharraf described the case against him as "baseless" and said he was ready to record his statement about the treason case but was unable to travel to Pakistan.
"I served the nation and made decisions for the betterment of the country," he said in the video clip.
Musharraf had only appeared at the hearings twice due to his ill health.
In 2014, he was rushed to hospital in Dubai after suffering a "heart problem" on his way to court.
At the time, his legal team said the allegations against him were politically motivated and challenged the authority of the three-judge tribunal.
Musharraf, who is said to still be very ill and unlikely to travel home to face the sentence, has always maintained his innocence.
First posted December 17, 2019 19:02:24