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Ousted Pakistan PM accused of hijacking

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    Ousted Pakistan PM accused of hijacking

    Ambassadors from two Commonwealth nations on Thursday visited Pakistan's ousted prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who has been accused of hijacking and kidnapping, diplomatic sources said.

    The visit by the Malaysian and Canadian envoys took place as leaders of the 54-nation Commonwealth, which groups mainly former British colonies, assembled for a summit in Durban, South Africa.

    The Durban gathering was expected to set a deadline for Pakistan's return to democracy following last month's military coup which ousted Sharif.

    Sharif, several cabinet ministers and other high-ranking officials have been in detention in Islamabad since the coup.

    Karachi police said on Thursday that, in a few days' time they would press formal charges against Sharif, some of which carry the death penalty upon conviction.

    "According to the procedures we have started, an investigation on the basis of the FIR (first information report)...It could take another day or two before we seek custody of the accused," a senior Karachi police official said.

    Police said the FIR, a formal complaint, was filed by a senior military officer against Sharif in connection with the attempted diversion on October 12 of a plane carrying army General Pervez Musharraf, who hours later overthrew Sharif in a bloodless coup.

    POLICE WILL ASK FOR CUSTODY OF SHARIF

    The Karachi police official said police would interrogate and record statements of witnesses and gather supporting evidence, and that arrest warrants would be issued if there was a strong case.

    He said that, after the arrests of the accused, police would present them before a magistrate within 24 hours and press formal charges.

    He said the police would ask the magistrate for custody of the accused for at least 14 days to interrogate them and record their statements. After that, the accused would be brought before a court for a formal hearing of the charges, he said.

    TRAIL MAY SET OFF POLITICAL STORM

    Britain issued a stark warning against Pakistan, telling the country's military rulers on Thursday not to stage a show trial of Sharif and saying it would oppose any death penalty.

    British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who was in Durban, said in a statement that Pakistan must respect the rights of Sharif and other ministers arrested in the military coup.

    Any trial could set off a political storm in Pakistan if it was seen to be not fair, said Raja Zafarul Haq, religious affairs minister in the ousted government.

    "There is increasing apprehension that it will be a mock trial and he will not be given a proper chance to defend himself," Haq told Reuters Television in Islamabad.

    The military authorities and new Attorney-General Aziz Munshi declined to comment.

    In the plane diversion incident on October 12, the plane carrying Musharraf and 200 civilians back from Sri Lanka was denied landing rights at Karachi airport. This was shortly after Sharif had announced that Musharraf had been fired.

    The plane was forced to circle the airport, and ran dangerously low on fuel before troops loyal to Musharraf seized control of the country and airport.

    Musharraf has said the lives of the passengers were put at risk because of the refusal to allow the plane to land and added that the plane landed with seven minutes worth of fuel left.

    Police said four others were accused with Sharif. There were former Pakistan International Airlines chairman Shahid Khakan Abbasi, Sharif's former adviser Ghous Ali Shah, former Sindh provincial police chief Rana Maqbool and Aminullah Chaudhry, former director general of the Civil Aviation Authority.

    During the last military regime of General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, deposed prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged on a disputed conviction of conspiring to commit a political murder.

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    Tch, Tch Isn't Robin Cook upset about the trial. Wonder why?
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