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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 November, 2004, 17:15 GMT
No freedom for nuclear scientist
AQ Khan Pakistani nuclear scientist
AQ Khan confessed in February to leaking nuclear secrets
A petition seeking the release from house detention of disgraced nuclear scientist AQ Khan on health grounds has failed in Pakistan's Supreme Court.

Dr Khan has been confined to his home near Islamabad since early this year when he admitted illegally transferring nuclear secrets overseas.

The court said Dr Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear programme and still a hero to many, was not seriously ill.

Dr Khan himself opposed the petition, filed by a friend, calling it illegal.

House visit

In February, Abdul Qadeer Khan publicly admitted involvement in the illegal transfer of nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

However, a number of supporters still refused to believe he could ever be involved in any illegal activity.

They became concerned about recent reports of his deteriorating health.

Supporters of Mr AQ Khan prior to his confession
Khan is still regarded as a hero by many in Pakistan

The concerns became more pronounced last month with the publication of a book about the arrest and detention of Dr Khan which claimed his health was deteriorating rapidly.

The book, written by a newspaper publisher who is a friend of Dr Khan's family, claimed the scientist might even have suffered a stroke.

A friend of Dr Khan, Hussam-ul Haq, approached the Supreme Court to investigate.

His petition said that since the scientist was not being allowed to leave his house or meet visitors, government claims that he was not ill could not be verified.

During Wednesday's hearing the two-member bench instructed the registrar to visit Dr Khan's home and report on his health.

The petition must be dismissed as illegal and without lawful authority
AQ Khan

After meeting the scientist and his physicians, the registrar informed the court that Dr Khan was not suffering any serious illness.

The registrar said Dr Khan rejected the petition, saying it was not filed with his permission.

Dr Khan submitted a letter to the court saying he was being "looked after very well".

"I am shocked and surprised to read in the newspapers that a petition has been filed on my behalf. The petition must be dismissed as illegal and without lawful authority."

A lawyer for Hussam-ul Haq said he had withdrawn the petition.

The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad says the mystery surrounding Dr Khan's international proliferation network has yet to unfold.

Though President Pervez Musharraf pardoned Dr Khan on the condition that he would co-operate with the authorities, it is still not clear if the government plans to make its findings public.



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