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28 May 2024

Bhutto murder suspects back in Pakistan court: officials

By Agencies


A Pakistani anti-terrorism court Monday presented charge sheets to five suspected militants accused of involvement in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, court officials said.

The five men were all arrested in the weeks following former premier Bhutto's slaying at a political rally in Rawalpindi on December 27 and last appeared at the court in the garrison city adjoining Islamabad a week ago.

Judge Habibur Rehman ordered copies of the official charges to be provided to suspects Aitzaz Shah, Hasnain Gul, Abdul Rashid, Sher Zaman and Rafaqat -- who goes by one name, a court official told AFP.

The judge said that the men would be formally charged at the next hearing on March 18, he said, adding that some relatives were allowed to briefly meet the suspects.

The suspects were brought to court by police commandos in a motorcade escorted by armoured personnel carriers with their faces covered and in handcuffs, an AFP photographer said.

Police had cordoned off the court premises and surroundings and the suspects were taken to the city's main Adiala jail after the hearing, he added.

Police arrested Shah and Zaman from the troubled northwestern city of Dera Ismail Khan in January and the other three from Rawalpindi in February.

Gul and Rafaqat confessed in February to helping and providing shelter to the suicide attacker, identified as Bilal, to avenge the army's storming of a radical mosque in Islamabad in July that killed more than 100 people.

Pakistani police earlier this month formally charged top Taliban and Al Qaeda commander Baitullah Mehsud, who is holed up in the country's tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, with masterminding Bhutto's killing.

He remains at large and has denied any involvement. (AFP)