Five men not guilty of aiding Bhutto's assassin

Five men not guilty of aiding Bhutto's assassin

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Five men have been acquitted of involvement in the murder of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi almost 10 years ago.

The men – who had been accused of being Taliban militants – are set to be released almost 10 years after first being arrested.

They were acquitted because of a lack of evidence, although prosecutor Khawaja Imtiaz said they had confessed during the investigation.

Two police officers have, however, been convicted over their handling of the crime scene.

Senior officer Khurram Shahzad was accused of hosing down the scene less than two hours after the killing.

Saud Aziz, who was chief of Rawalpindi police, was accused of giving Shahzad permission to hose down the scene, and of refusing, multiple times, to allow a post-mortem of Ms Bhutto’s body.

Each received two prison sentences of seven and 10 years, to run concurrently.

They are the only two people to have been convicted in connection with Ms Bhutto’s murder.

Image: Pervez Musharraf returned to Pakistan in March 2013 after four years of self-imposed exile

In addition, Pakistan’s former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, who was charged in 2013 over Ms Bhutto’s murder, has been declared an “absconder”.

That means Musharraf, who was allowed to leave Pakistan last year, must be arrested and brought to trial if he returns.

His property in Pakistan is also to be seized, the court ordered.

He is the first former army chief to face criminal charges in the country.

Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on 27 December 2007, not long after returning from exile to campaign for a return to power.

Her assassin is thought to have shot her in the neck before blowing himself up.

Educated at Oxford and Harvard, she became the first female prime minister of an Islamic country at the age of 35, after military dictator Zia ul-Haq died in a plane crash in 1988.

Elected twice, she was also thrown out twice because of allegations of corruption, going into exile when Pervez Musharraf took over in 1999.

When she returned in 2007, she was hoping for a third term in power after the following year’s elections.

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