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Musharraf’s case expected to fester until Pakistan vote

ISLAMABAD — A Pakistani antiterrorism court Saturday extended by two weeks the detention of the former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, ensuring that the legal wrangling surrounding the retired general will continue in the run-up to elections on May 11.

After a hearing that lasted barely five minutes, the judge ordered Musharraf held in custody until May 4, during which time he was expected to face charges over his decision to fire senior judges in 2007, when he was the president.

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Islamabad district administration officials said that Musharraf would be held at his fortified villa, declaring it a ‘‘sub jail’’ and sending police officers to guard the villa. No visitors will be allowed, officials said.

It was Musharraf’s fourth court appearance in 48 hours, highlighting the unprecedented nature of a case that challenges the sense of impunity military rulers have long enjoyed in Pakistan.

Musharraf arrived at the courthouse surrounded by the police and paramilitary soldiers, reflecting the danger to his life from Taliban militants who have threatened to kill him. But the greatest hostility came from a crowd of jeering lawyers in black suits, who chanted insults and pushed against the security cordon.

As he emerged from the hearing, Musharraf saluted in his signature military style before being escorted back to police headquarters and later to his villa. Muhammad Amjad Chaudhry, a close aide to Musharraf, said the former general was in good spirits despite his situation.

‘‘His morale is high,’’ Chaudhry told reporters. ‘‘He says he will face the courts. He regrets that he is being accused of acts he never committed.’’

‘His morale is high. He says he will face the courts.’

Muhammad Chaudhry, Aide to Pervez Musharraf 
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The detention is a strange twist for Musharraf, who had hundreds of people, including senior judges, placed under house arrest in November 2007 after he declared emergency rule as his grip on power slipped.

That period still rankles members of Pakistan’s judiciary. Musharraf’s case was heard in an antiterrorism court because a judge earlier declared that the former president’s detention of senior judges constituted an act of terrorism.

Some critics are trying to have Musharraf tried for treason, a politically contentious undertaking that some fear could prompt an aggressive military intervention.

The case has elicited high emotions on both sides. One retired general, speaking on condition of anonymity, said senior officers were angered by the sight of Musharraf being dragged through the courts.

And although Musharraf is facing trial in a civilian court, his security is being provided by soldiers, who helped him escape from court when a judge refused to grant him bail Thursday.

Outside the courthouse Saturday, lawyers surrounded and attacked a young man who displayed slogans in favor of Musharraf, leaving him bloodied and dazed.

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