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Court insists on reopening of Zardari's corruption cases

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Islamabad, April 1,IRNA -- The Supreme Court Thursday objected at measures by Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency to reopen cases against President Asif Ali Zardari in Switzerland and asked the government to send another letter to Swiss officials with the Prime Minister’s approval.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) told the Courtthat that a letter has been sent to Swiss authorities to reopen cases against Zardari.

The seven-member bench is hearing a suo moto case on the reopening of thousands of anti-corruption cases against President Zardari and thousands others, after a President Musharraf-era amnesty law was cancelled in December.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chuaudhry said the letter had “no legal value” as it was written by the NAB and not the government and that it was insufficient to reopen the cases in Switzerland.

The bench said the law ministry should write a letter to Swiss authorities with the approval of the Prime Minister and send the document by special messenger.

Zardari and his slain wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, were found guilty in absentia by a Geneva court in 2003 of laundering millions dollars.

They were given six-month sentence and fine but both punishments were suspended when they appealed.

Swiss authorities abandoned the cases against them in 2008 after the Pakistani authorities asked them to.

The cases were among over 8,000 anti-corruption cases that were closed under the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf as part of a secret deal with Bhutto in 2007.

NAB sent the letter to Swiss authorities Thursday after it was given an ultimatum and the Chief Justice threatened to imprison NAB Chairman Naveed Ahsan.

The apex court’s stand reflects the stand-off between Zardari and Chief Justice Chaudhry, whom the President had refused to reinstate for over a year after he was deposed by Musharraf during the November 2007 state of emergency.

Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan told the bench that a copy of NAB’s letter was with the law ministry and could be sent through proper channels to Geneva.

The apex court’s objections came a day after Geneva Prosecutor Daniel Zappelli said he could not reopen cases in Switzerland against Zardari as he enjoys “absolute immunity” as a head of state.

“We could go further only if the competent authorities in Pakistan decide to lift the immunity of the head of state, which I do not know whether it is possible according to their constitution,” Zappelli told the media Thursday.

He said there was “absolutely” no chance of the cases being revived if the immunity was not waived.

**1420

End News / IRNA / News Code 1031692



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