Musharraf's team seeks UN aid to end trial by 'Kangaroo court'

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez MusharrafLawyers for Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf have appealed to the United Nations to intervene and help prevent the ex-president being tried for treason, saying he faced a "show trial" in the ''politically motivated'' case.

The case against Musharraf, initiated by the Pakistani government, focuses on accusations that the former military leader breached the constitution when he imposed emergency rule in 2007. Prosecutors are demanding the death penalty or life imprisonment for the former dictator, who came to power by ousting current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup in 1999.

Musharraf's trial is due to begin on 24 December. His plea to the UN, issued from London by an international legal team, is designed to get the international body to urge Nawaz Sharif to delay or stop the trial. It was sent to a UN special rapporteur who investigates complaints about the independence of judges and another who deals with cases involving the death penalty.

Musharraf's legal team also called on Saudi Arabia, Britain and the US to denounce his trial in view of his support in the "war on terror" in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

The 70-year-old ex-commando is the first former military dictator in Pakistan's history to face trial for treason.

Musharraf's barrister Steven Kay told a press conference in London the hearing would be a "stage-managed show trial" with the judges picked by political opponents who are now in power.

"What we have here is a case that has started with the hand-picking of judges by the politicians - or a politician, the prime minister - in defiance of any person's right to a trial that is fair," Kay said. The trial is an "egregious example of political interference", he added.

Musharraf returned to Pakistan from self-imposed exile in March in the hope of regaining power through the democratic process; but was promptly placed under house arrest and debarred from contesting the elections.

The treason accusation relates to his decision in 2007 to impose emergency rule shortly before the Supreme Court was due to decide on the legality of his re-election as president a month earlier, while he was still army chief.

Kay said the judges selected for the trial would be unable to act impartially - particularly since one of them, Faisal Arab, was sacked by Musharraf's government.

"If you've been affected by what took place and then you judge it, there is a conflict of interest because you have an interest in getting retribution," Kay said.

The legal team has written to UN human rights chief Navi Pillay and UN special rapporteurs calling for the international body to "urgently intervene and ensure that the former president is not subjected to politically motivated charges".

Barrister Toby Cadman called on Musharraf's allies in the "war on terror" to support him, insisting this did not amount to interference in Pakistani justice. "What is important is to ensure that voices of concern are expressed in terms of the charges which the former president faces, and recognition of his contribution to the 'war on terror'," Cadman said.