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The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Karachi
Nawaz Sharif was described as the principle conspirator
 real 28k

Tuesday, 21 March, 2000, 09:54 GMT
Death penalty sought for Sharif
Raja Qureshi calls for the "maximum punishment"
The prosecution in the trial of ousted Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has demanded the death penalty be imposed.

Pakistan in crisis
The court should award "the maximum punishment", to all those accused in the case, chief public prosecutor Raja Qureshi told the court in Karachi as he began his final arguments on Monday.

The prosecution concluded its case on Tuesday, and the court has adjourned until later in the week when the defence is due to begin summing up.

Nawaz Sharif maintains his innocence
Nawaz Sharif, his brother Shahbaz and five others are facing charges that include hijacking, attempted murder and terrorism.

The charges stem from 12 October when a civilian plane carrying army chief General Pervez Musharraf and 198 passengers was briefly denied permission to land at Karachi.

Whether they ask for death or heart knows and my God knows that my husband is innocent

Nawaz Sharif's wife Kulsoom
On Monday, the prosecutor read out excerpts from the testimony of several witnesses to argue that Mr Sharif and his co-accused had taken control of the commercial aircraft and endangered the lives of General Musharraf and those on board.

"It is established that the accused were present in the process of hatching a conspiracy. They stand fully implicated in the commissioning of the crime," Mr Qureshi said.

He said the mandate of the anti-terrorism court in which Mr Sharif is being tried required that the maximum punishment be handed out if the crime was established.

Only if the judge had sufficient cause could a lesser sentence be delivered, Mr Qureshi said.


Mr Sharif maintains his innocence and says the evidence against him is fabricated.

His wife, Kulsoom, told journalists outside the court: "Whether they ask for death or anything, I know, my heart knows and my God knows that my husband is innocent and he has not committed any crime."

The case has been held under tight security
The prosecution has two more days to present its argument.

The court then will hear the defence, which also has three days for its closing argument.

Monday's proceedings were the first after the shooting, earlier this month, of one of Mr Sharif's lawyers.

Executions in Pakistan in comparison to many other Asian countries are low, with death sentences being frequently challenged successfully.

But Mr Sharif's trial is being held in a court with special, often sweeping powers to deliver stiff punishment.

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See also:

30 Nov 99 | South Asia
Analysis: Justice under scrutiny
13 Oct 99 | South Asia
Profile: Nawaz Sharif
11 Nov 99 | South Asia
Pakistan's coup: The 17-hour victory
14 Mar 00 | South Asia
Sharif lawyers return to battle
09 Mar 00 | South Asia
Pakistan coup doubts creep in
08 Mar 00 | South Asia
Sharif launches defence
06 Mar 00 | South Asia
Judge stops Sharif tapes
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