Interpol issues Bhutto arrest warrant

Interpol has issued international notices, at Pakistan's request, seeking the arrest of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband on corruption charges, officials say.

    Bhutto was convicted in Pakistan on corruption charges

    Speaking by phone from France, Interpol spokeswoman Rachel Billington confirmed that "red notices" had been issued for Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari, but that it was up to member countries to decide what, if any, action to take.

    Pakistan's Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said the government's anti-corruption body had requested Interpol issue the notices.

    Bhutto, who was prime minister in the late 1980s and early 1990s, lives in exile in England and the United Arab Emirates.

    She and her husband are wanted in Pakistan in connection with several graft cases.

    Corruption conviction

    Since her fall from power, Bhutto and her husband have been convicted in Pakistan on corruption charges that date back to her tenure as Pakistan's first and only female prime minister, and several more charges are pending against them.

    Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari 
    served eight years in prison

    Bhutto was convicted of money laundering in Switzerland in July 2003 under a Swiss law that empowered high-level investigators to impose penalties without a court hearing.

    The conviction was automatically thrown out when she contested it, prompting a fresh round of questioning.

    Billington said that countries view red notices differently, with action sometimes depending on treaties between member countries and the country where the arrest warrant is issued.

    "It informs other countries that an arrest warrant exists," Billington said.

    "It's up to member countries to decide on what action to take."

    It was not immediately clear which arrest warrants were mentioned in the notices.

    Main opposition

    Bhutto was democratically elected twice, but both of her governments toppled over misrule and corruption allegations.

    While she lives in exile, her Pakistan People's Party remains one of the main opposition parties to President General Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a coup in 1999 over the elected government that followed Bhutto's.

    "The PPP and Bhutto will not succumb to such pressure tactics of the military dictatorship," 

    Senator Farhatullah Babar
    Spokesman for Bhutto's party

    A spokesman for Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party said it had not been notified about the Interpol notices but would challenge them.

    "The PPP and Bhutto will not succumb to such pressure tactics of the military dictatorship," spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar said.

    He said Bhutto was in the United States with Zardari on a lecture tour.

    Zardari was released on bail last year from eight years in detention over corruption charges against him, in what was seen as a move toward rapprochement between Musharraf and Bhutto.

    The issuance of the notices would appear a setback to chances of reconciliation between them.

    Benazir's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto,was prime minister of Pakistan in the early 1970s. He was hanged by the military, after being found guilty of authorising the murder of a political opponent in 1974.

    SOURCE: Unspecified


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