Pakistani police and lawyers clash

Tear gas used against protesters as restrictions on suspended judge are eased.

    Lawyers say they will hold a nationwide
    protest on March 21 [Reuters]
    "It seems some invisible hand is trying to create chaos."

    Two vehicles were torched and rocks littered the streets as hundreds of police sealed off the High Court.

    'Misconduct and misuse'

    The violence came after authorities eased restrictions on the chief justice, who was suspended on March 9 over unspecified allegations that he had abused his authority.

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    A state news agency said he was accused of "misconduct and misuse of authority".

    Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, who has refused to resign, has been confined to his home in Islamabad, with police are blocking almost all access to him, since his suspension. He has made two appearances before a panel of judges considering the case against him.
     
    Police were still on guard outside his home on Saturday, despite the restrictions being lifted, but he was free to meet anyone, Tariq Mehmud, one of his lawyers, said. His telephone and television services had been restored, he added.

    The government has denied that he had ever been under house arrest.

    Independent judge

    The lawyers have been angered by the suspension of the independent-minded judge ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections.

    Bhoon said lawyers would hold a countrywide protest on March 21, when Chaudhry is scheduled to appear again before a judicial council hearing.

    On Friday, police fired tear gas at lawyers and other activists trying to get to the Supreme Court to protest against the suspension. The offices of Geo TV were also raided by police as it broadcast live from court.

    One of the channel's most popular news shows had already been taken off air on Thursday, apparently for its coverage of the legal crisis.

    Pervez Musharraf, the president, has made a personal apology over the raid and 14 offiicers have been suspended.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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