Fri, Feb 01, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Chaudhry addresses Western countries, criticizes Musharraf

SPEAKING OUT An aide said a letter written by the former chief justice, who is isolated in his house, had been smuggled past guards by his daughter

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE AND AFP , ISLAMABAD and LAHORE ,PAKISTAN

NY Times News Service and AFP, ISLAMABAD AND LAHORE, PAKISTAN

Former Pakistani chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who was removed last year when Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf imposed a state of emergency, has spoken out despite being isolated.

A letter from Chaudhry to Western officials was circulated on Wednesday. It lambasted the president for quashing Pakistan's independent judiciary and illegally detaining him and his family and noted that the Supreme Court had not had a chance to rule on whether it was legal for Musharraf to run for re-election in December.

It was Chaudhry's second public statement since the start of emergency rule on Nov. 3, when he was confined to his home. On Nov. 6, he made a telephone address to opposition lawyers in Islamabad, urging the nation to rise for the restoration of the Constitution. Emergency rule was lifted on Dec. 15.

The Pakistani government insists that Chaudhry is not under house arrest, but in reality public access to his residence is prohibited and visitors are not allowed.

An aide, Athar Minullah, said the letter was smuggled out by Chaudhry's 16-year-old daughter.

The letter, in response to Musharraf's recent visit to European capitals, was addressed to the president of the European Parliament, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the head of the World Economic Forum. During his trip, Musharraf gave Western leaders a damning profile of Chaudhry, Minullah said.

"I have found it necessary to write to you, and others," Chaudhry said in the letter, "because during his recent visits to Brussels, Paris, Davos and London, General Musharraf has slandered me, and my colleagues, with impunity in press conferences and other addresses and meetings."

Throughout the letter, Chaudhry referred to the president as "General Musharraf," underlining the constitutional questions surrounding his leadership.

Musharraf's moves against Chaudhry -- including a suspension from the Supreme Court in March -- have made Musharraf deeply unpopular in the country.

In a show of support for Chaudhry, thousands of lawyers yesterday burned an effigy of Musharraf as part of nationwide protests to press for his release, witnesses said.

Around 3,000 attorneys in black suits chanted "Death to Musharraf" and "Death to army generals" at a rally in Lahore, during which they also burned a dummy representing Musharraf.

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