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Friday, 25 February, 2000, 11:36 GMT
Court to censor Sharif

Troops on jeep
Troops outside Mr Sharif's home after the coup

The court trying ousted Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif has imposed restrictions on the publication of statements made by him and his co-defendants.

Pakistan in crisis
Judge Rehmat Jafri ruled on Friday that defence statements by Mr Sharif can be recorded in open court, but will subject to examination to decide which parts can be published.

Mr Sharif, his brother and five other accused are charged with hijacking, attempted murder, abduction and terrorism.

If the accused give an oral or written statement, the court will decide whether the same or part of it should be released

Judge Rehmat Jafri
They have pleaded innocent, but could face the death penalty if found guilty.

Mr Sharif is now expected to record his statements next week when he may speak about his differences with the army chief General Pervez Musharraf and the attempt to replace him - the move which resulted in the military takeover.

However, it is not clear now how much of this will become public.

'Not fair'

Explaining his ruling, Judge Jafri said: "If the accused give an oral or written statement, whatever they will say in it will be recorded and then the court will decide at the appropriate stage as to whether the same or part of it should be released . . . for public consumption."

According to the BBC's Zafar Abbas, journalists reporting who are in the court will be instructed by the judge as to what parts of the testimony they can use.

Although the prosecution seemed quite pleased with the decision, defence lawyers expressed misgivings.

One lawyer, Khawaja Sultan, said: "This is not fair to him. The prosecution witnesses have been allowed to speak freely and now there are controls on Nawaz Sharif."

On Thursday, Attorney General Raja Qureshi argued that statements by Mr Sharif might endanger Pakistan's security.

He said the intention was not to deny him the right to speak, but to safeguard the "integrity" of the country.

But defence lawyer Ejaz Batalvi said the former prime minister "would not say anything to endanger Pakistan".

The defence also argues that it is wrong to equate the security of the Pakistani nation with that of the sitting government.

The case against Mr Sharif arises from the events of 12 October last year, when army chief General Pervez Musharraf seized power in a peaceful military coup.

A civilian plane carrying Mr Musharraf and nearly 200 other passengers was briefly denied permission to land at Karachi airport - an action which the prosecution alleges endangered the lives of those on board.

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See also:
16 Feb 00 |  South Asia
More testimony against Sharif
09 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Sharif 'diverted aircraft'
02 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Pilot describes coup flight fears
27 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Sharif stops plane 'before coup'
30 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Analysis: Justice under scrutiny
13 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Profile: Nawaz Sharif

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