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Saturday, 25 March, 2000, 13:57 GMT
Musharraf 'planned hijack'
Sharif supporters
Supporters of Nawaz Sharif outside the court
Lawyers for the ousted Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, have argued that military ruler General Pervez Musharraf orchestrated the alleged hijacking blamed on their client.

Pakistan in crisis
Mr Sharif, his brother Shahbaz and five others could face the death penalty if convicted of charges including hijacking, attempted murder and terrorism.

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


Khawaja Sultan
Khawaja Sultan: Accused Pakistan's military leader
"Musharraf told the pilot not to land until his loyal army was in control of the Karachi airport," Mr Sharif's attorney, Khawaja Sultan, said.

While the plane circled Karachi, the army seized power in protest against Mr Sharif's decision to dismiss the general.

The plane had just seven minutes of fuel remaining when it eventually landed, and General Musharraf accused Mr Sharif of endangering the lives of those on board.

Mr Sultan is due to finish his closing arguments on Monday, and the judge is likely to give a verdict within a week.

Key witness attacked

Earlier, the defence team questioned several aspects of the case, including why it had taken 28 days to file the original complaint against Mr Sharif.


Raja Qureshi
Raja Qureshi: Wants the death penalty
Mr Sultan also said the prosecution had not produced any documentary evidence to back up its case - such as the black box from the flight, the tapes recorded at Karachi air traffic control tower, the transcripts of the tapes or the log record of fuel carried by the plane.

He challenged the testimony of Aminullah Chaudhry, the former civil aviation authority chief who became a key prosecution witness, and said most of the prosecution witnesses could not be relied upon because they were accomplices in the alleged crime.

Mr Chaudhry testified that Mr Sharif had ordered him not to allow the plane carrying General Musharraf to land, and that he then instructed aviation officials to close the airport and divert the plane.

The prosecutor, Raja Qureshi, said the mandate of the anti-terrorism court required that the maximum punishment be handed out if the crime was established.

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

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See also:

20 Mar 00 | South Asia
Death penalty sought for Sharif
30 Nov 99 | South Asia
Analysis: Justice under scrutiny
13 Oct 99 | South Asia
Profile: Nawaz Sharif
14 Mar 00 | South Asia
Sharif lawyers return to battle
08 Mar 00 | South Asia
Sharif launches defence
06 Mar 00 | South Asia
Judge stops Sharif tapes
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