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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 December, 2004, 15:57 GMT
Bhutto husband house arrest ends
Zardari being arrested at Islamabad airport
Mr Zardari called his arrest undemocratic
The husband of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been freed from house arrest in Karachi.

Asif Ali Zardari had been detained for failing to attend a murder trial hearing in the city on Tuesday.

But he was granted bail by the Sindh provincial High Court on Wednesday and police officers were withdrawn from outside his house.

Mr Zardari was freed on another bail order last month after eight years in jail on murder and corruption charges.

I thank God - the courts are waking up and will help in the restoration of democracy in the country
Asif Zardari

Observers say last month's release, with the cases still pending, may have been part of moves by the government to end its long stand-off with Pakistan's secular opposition.

But many believe the authorities have been unnerved by the reception Mr Zardari has received from supporters in recent weeks and may want to keep him away from the capital.

The government insisted his latest brush with the authorities was a matter for the courts.

Killings

A warrant for Mr Zardari's re-arrest was issued on Tuesday when he failed to attend a trial hearing in Karachi.

As the court has now approved his bail, we will release him
Abdul Rauf Siddiqui,
Sindh Home Minister

He denies charges of conspiracy to commit murder in the 1996 killing of a judge and his son.

The police guard on Mr Zardari's house in Karachi was removed on Wednesday after his lawyers met bail terms of 300,000 rupees ($6,800).

"I thank God," Mr Zardari had told Reuters news agency earlier, on hearing that the Sindh High Court had granted bail.

Police beat Zardari supporter at Islamabad airport
Police clashed with Zardari supporters at Islamabad airport
"The courts are waking up and will help in the restoration of democracy in the country."

He later told a news conference: "People want to see fresh elections next year, and let me say that Benazir Bhutto will be in the prime minister's house after the 2005 elections."

Sindh Home Minister Abdul Rauf Siddiqui said the authorities had been following court orders.

"As the court has now approved his bail, we will release him," he told Reuters.

'Insult to democracy'

Mr Zardari, a leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP), was arrested at Islamabad airport on Tuesday on his way to address a political rally.

Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto has lived abroad since 1999

There were violent clashes between police and hundreds of his supporters before he was sent back to Karachi.

Mr Zardari said they had no right to prevent him from attending a public meeting. The PPP called his arrest "an insult to democracy".

But the BBC's Paul Anderson in Islamabad said his re-arrest might not mean the government was going back on efforts to smooth relations with the Pakistan People's Party.

Our correspondent says Mr Zardari may have challenged the legal system and found it can fight back.

Ms Bhutto, who also faces corruption charges in Pakistan, was twice prime minister and still heads the PPP.

Her governments were dissolved in 1990 and 1996 for alleged corruption. She went into self-imposed exile in 1999.





FROM OTHER NEWS SITES:
Sydney Morning HeraldPakistan court orders release of Bhutto husband - 2 hrs ago
Arab News Zardari Freed After Court Restores Bail - 6 hrs ago
ABCNEWS.com Bhutto's Husband Freed Again in Pakistan - 17 hrs ago
CNN Bhutto's husband freed on bail - 17 hrs ago
Reuters Bhutto's Husband Freed Again in Pakistan - 18 hrs ago
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