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The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad
"Defence lawyers will probably challenge the reliability of the new evidence"
 real 28k

Nawaz Sharif's daughter Maryam
"I know he's not guilty of anything"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 24 November, 1999, 19:23 GMT
Trial blow for Sharif
Nawaz Sharif's supporters outside the Karachi court

A co-defendant of ousted Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has been pardoned after agreeing to give evidence against him, Pakistan's official news agency has reported.

Pakistan in crisis
The lead prosecutor said earlier that Aminullah Chaudhry, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority, had decided to testify against Mr Sharif in return for immunity from prosecution.

Mr Sharif is facing charges of treason and conspiracy to murder. He could face the death penalty if found guilty.

The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad says the announcement of the pardon is bound to lead to claims that Mr Chaudhry's evidence against Nawaz Sharif is unreliable.

On trial
Ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
Former adviser on southern Sindh affairs Ghaus Ali Shah
Former managing director of Pakistan International Airlines Shahid Haqqan Abbasi
Former Sindh police chief General Rana Maqbool
Karachi police chief Akbar Arayn
Three other police officials
Before he decided to give evidence for the prosecution, Mr Chaudhry was one of those accused of conspiring with the deposed prime minister to kill Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, and fellow passengers by refusing permission for their plane to land. General Musharraf overthrew Mr Sharif in a military coup last month.

The prosecution is expected to rely on Mr Chaudhry's evidence to prove that the refusal to allow the plane to land was the result of direct orders from Mr Sharif in Islamabad.

However, defence lawyers are expected to argue that Mr Chaudhry has decided to give evidence for the prosecution because the new military authorities have put pressure on him.

Daughter's plea

One of Mr Sharif's daughters has pleaded for his life to be spared if he is convicted. "My innocent father does not deserve hanging or any punishment because he has not committed any crime," Maryam Sharif said on Tuesday.

Nawaz Sharif: Denies any wrongdoing
Her comments follow a meeting between Mr Sharif and his family inside the jail he has been sent to. It was the first time he had seen his family since last month's military coup.

Mr Sharif has denied he did anything wrong.

"We are not involved in any of these accusations or allegations that have been framed," he told journalists during one of his recent court appearances.

"We know we have not done anything wrong."

Formal charges are expected to be filed against Mr Sharif on Friday, when the judge is also expected to announce a date for the full trial to begin.

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See also:
22 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Sharif moved to jail
22 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Military takeover challenged in court
11 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Pakistan's coup: The 17-hour victory
10 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Sharif charged with murder plot
17 Nov 99 |  South Asia
MP says Pakistan's ex-premier 'depressed'
20 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Bomb rocks Lahore
23 Nov 99 |  South Asia
UK may help Pakistan Bhutto probe

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