The two senior police officers who were sentenced to 17 years in prison for negligence and security lapses that led to the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 have challenged the verdict at the Lahore High Court on Thursday.
An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Rawalpindi last week convicted Additional Inspector General Saud Aziz and Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Khurram Shehzad, and fined them Rs 1 million each besides sentencing them to 17 years in jail.
Former President Pervez Musharraf was declared an absconder and five suspects reportedly linked with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were acquitted for lack of evidence, Dawn online reported.
The appeals, filed on behalf of the police officers by their lawyers in the Rawalpindi bench, urged the High Court to release the convicts after overturning the sentences handed to them.
The applications argued that the police officers had provided adequate security at Liaquat Bagh, the venue of the rally addressed by Bhutto on December 27, 2007.
The officers who were providing security services had been made “scapegoats”, the lawyers claimed, adding that the prosecution did not have any solid evidence against the accused.
The police officers claimed that the statements given by prosecution witnesses in the court were full of contradictions and that the trial of the case had not been conducted according to criminal laws, the report said.
Additional Inspector General of Police Saud Aziz had been accused of removing Superintendent of Police Ashfaq Anwar from Liaquat Bagh, leaving Bhutto at the mercy of the attackers. He was also accused of not ordering an autopsy of her body.
SSP Khurram Shehzad was charged with washing the crime scene and destroying potential evidence that may have led investigators to the terrorists, the report said.
The Pakistan Peoples Party chief was assassinated in a gun and bomb attack after an election rally in Liaquat Bagh on December 27, 2007. The then government of Pervez Musharraf had blamed TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud for the killing but Mehsud had denied any involvement in the murder.