06/12/2007, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Justice suspended by Musharraf wins first round in Supreme Court

Iftikhar Chaudhry wins first legal round. President Musharraf had personally removed on March 9 making him an iconic figure in the struggle for democracy in the country. His lawyer says regular proceedings can now take place.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Iftikhar Chaudhry, Pakistan's suspended chief justice, has won the first round in a legal battle with the government. The Supreme Court decided on Monday to consider his challenge against accusations of misconduct which led Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to suspend him on March 9. The decision sparked widespread protests by lawyers and the opposition.

Support for Chaudhry has grown into a broad campaign for the restoration of democracy and is seen as a significant threat to Musharraf who came to power in a coup in 1999.

For nearly a month the justices of the Supreme Court have been listening to legal arguments aimed at determining which judicial body should rule on the misconduct charges against Chaudhry.

Chaudhry had challenged the impartiality of a panel set up to conduct the inquiry, and its hearings were halted pending the outcome of the Supreme Court's deliberations.

Now the court has brushed aside a government attempt to block Chaudhry's challenge saying it will consider the case.

Aitzaz Ahsan, the lead counsel on Chaudhry's legal team, said that they were very happy and satisfied that the court will begin regular proceedings. In fact, the issue for them was not the government but the impartiality of some panellists.

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