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The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Karachi
President Clinton "urged General Musharraf to show clemency"
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Monday, 27 March, 2000, 13:58 GMT
Sharif lawyers demand acquittal
Sharif supporters
Supporters of Nawaz Sharif outside the court
Lawyers for the deposed Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif have called for him to be acquitted of charges of hijacking, attempted murder and terrorism.

Pakistan in crisis
Wrapping up their case, leading defence lawyer Khawaja Sultan told the court: "The prosecution has miserably failed to prove the case. I pray to the court to kindly acquit Nawaz Sharif and other accused."

Khawaja Sultan
Khawaja Sultan: Says prosecution has no case
Mr Sharif, his brother Shahbaz and five others could face the death penalty if convicted.

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.

General Musharraf seized power that day and became Pakistan's military ruler.

Witness 'discrepancies'

Khawaja Sultan spent most of the last day attempting to highlight discrepancies in the testimony of prosecution witnesses - including Aminullah Chaudhry, the former director of civil aviation who was originally charged along with Mr Sharif and the others.

It was the army on that fateful night who was issuing these instructions and it was General Pervez Musharraf who was controlling the plane

Defence lawyer Khawaja Sultan
Mr Chaudhry became the key witness for the prosecution's allegations that Mr Sharif acted unlawfully in ordering the plane carrying General Musharraf to divert from Karachi.

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 argued that the army had already taken over control of Karachi airport when the instructions were given to the plane to divert.

"It was the army on that fateful night who was issuing these instructions and it was General Pervez Musharraf who was controlling the plane," he said.

He also argued that even if the order had come from Mr Sharif, it was entirely legal and was intended for the safety of the passengers as army had already begun its coup and they might have landed in the middle of a struggle for control of the airport.

Defence lawyers for some of the other accused are due to present their final arguments on Tuesday, with the prosecution due to reply afterwards.

During his visit to Islamabad over the weekend, President Clinton urged clemency for Mr Sharif in the event of a death sentence.

General Musharraf has said it is a matter for the courts.

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See also:

24 Mar 00 | South Asia
Musharraf 'planned hijack'
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
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