Pak’s FIA challenges ATC’s verdict in Bhutto murder case

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Islamabad, Sept 29 (PTI): Pakistan’s premier probe agency today challenged the decision of an anti-terrorism court in the assassination case of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, demanding death penalty for the two convicted police officers and five suspected Taliban militants who were acquitted.

On August 31, an anti-terrorism court sentenced two senior police officers to 17 years in jail in the  Bhutto murder case, nearly 10 years after her assassination. The court also declared Pakistan’s former dictator Pervez Musharraf a fugitive and ordered seizure of his property.

The court also acquitted five Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan suspects — Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul, Sher Zaman, Rashid Ahmed and Aitzaz Shah. Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) moved the Lahore High Court (LHC) against the anti-terrorism court’s (ATC) decision.

The decision to declare five suspects innocent had invited criticism from various quarters, including the family of the 54-year-old Bhutto. Bhutto, the Pakistan Peoples Party chief and a two-time prime minister, was killed along with more than 20 people in a gun and bomb attack in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh during an election campaign rally on December 27, 2007.

According to court officials, the FIA filed two petitions with the Rawalpindi bench of LHC. The first one argues that former city police officer Saud Aziz and former superintendent of police Khurrum Shahzad were not punished under the terrorism charges and the FIA demanded capital punishment for them.

The FIA in its second petition asked the court to overturn the acquittal of the five accused who confessed their involvement in the murder and sentence them to death. The LHC accepted the petition, setting a date for the hearing of the case on October 2.

Officials said that Assistant Attorney General Faisa Mahmood Raja will be representing the FIA in the court. Earlier, Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower, also challenged the ATC verdict when he filed three petitions in LHC’s Rawalpindi bench earlier this month.

He sought death penalty for Musharraf and the two senior police officers. He also demanded conviction of five accused who were set free. Zardari’s appeals will be heard by Justice Tariq Abbasi and Justice Habibullah Amir on November 27.

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