7 indicted over Bhutto killing

2011-11-05 16:00
Islamabad - A Pakistani anti-terror court on Saturday indicted two police officers and five alleged Taliban militants over the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, a prosecutor said.

Nobody has been convicted or jailed for Bhutto's assassination on December 27 2007, in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near the capital Islamabad, in a gun and suicide attack after she addressed an election rally.

Police say that three other suspects in the high-profile case have been killed - including the chief of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud - and two remain at large.

"Seven accused including two police officers have been indicted," public prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar told AFP. The police were arrested a year ago while the suspected militants have been in custody for nearly four years.

The police officers were Saud Aziz, who was the Rawalpindi police chief at the time of the killing, and Khurram Shahzad, another senior policeman.

The seven were indicted at the court in a high-security prison in Rawalpindi.

The five alleged militants are accused of "criminal conspiracy" for bringing the suicide bomber from the tribal belt in the northwest and keeping him at a house in Rawalpindi.

"(All) the accused denied the charges and demanded for trial," Azhar said, adding that the police officers were accused of a security breach and for their "failure" to protect Bhutto.

At the time of her death, then President Pervez Musharraf blamed Mehsud for the killing.

Musharraf, who lives in self-imposed exile in London and Dubai, is also wanted over Bhutto's death. Prosecutors issued an arrest warrant in February over what they said was his failure to provide her with enough security.

The former president and military ruler is alleged to have been part of a "broad conspiracy" to have his political rival killed before elections. He denies the allegation.

The anti-terror court in August ordered the confiscation of Musharraf's property and the freezing of his bank accounts in Pakistan, the prosecutor said.

Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack in August 2009, one of the most high-profile casualties of the covert American campaign targeting Al-Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border.

Bhutto, who served two terms as prime minister, had returned from exile two months before she was killed to stand for election.

Her widower Asif Ali Zardari led her Pakistan People's Party to election victory in February 2008 and is now president.
- SAPA

Read more on:    asif ali zardari  |  benazir bhutto  |  pervez musharraf  |  pakistan

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