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Last Updated: Monday, 7 May 2007, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Pakistan court halts judge probe
Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry
Mr Chaudhry was suspended from his post in March
Pakistan's Supreme Court has suspended an inquiry into misconduct charges against the country's top judge.

It ruled that the case of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry should instead be heard by the Supreme Court, as argued by the defendant himself.

Mr Chaudhry, who is known for taking on government wrongdoing, was suspended by President Pervez Musharraf in March.

The decision triggered weeks of nationwide protests by disaffected lawyers and opposition parties.

Anger over his sacking poses the biggest challenge to Gen Musharraf's rule since he seized power in 1999.

Mr Chaudhry says he is fighting for the independence of the judiciary but the protests in his favour have turned into a broader campaign against military rule, correspondents say.

A lawyer representing the chief justice told reporters outside the court said that the judgement "vindicates our stance".


The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi says that the ruling is a victory for Mr Chaudhry and a setback for President Musharraf.

Mr Chaudhry successfully argued that the Supreme Judicial Council would not hear his case fairly.

Our correspondent says that the suspended judge believes that the supreme court will give him a better chance of an impartial hearing.

Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry's car leaving Islamabad
Mr Chaudhry is used to petals been thrown by his supporters

He was challenging abuse of office allegations, including accusations that he procured a top police job for his son.

On Sunday, Mr Chaudhry told a crowd of thousands in Lahore that dictatorships which ignore the rule of law face "destruction".

However. he made no direct reference to President Pervez Musharraf.

There have been almost daily demonstrations by his supporters.

For his part, President Musharraf has warned lawyers not to politicise the issue.

"This is a constitutional and judicial issue and those giving it a political tone will not be successful in their designs," he said.

The case is now due to be heard by the Supreme Court from 8 May onwards.

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